Died 17th August 2011
Jacqueline Charles (48), mother of two children, died on 17th August 2011 when her estranged husband Paul Charles, 53, drove the car they were both in over the edge of Culver Down cliffs between Bembridge and Sandown on the Isle of Wight. Ms Charles lived in Union Road in Ryde, while her husband lived in Albert Road in Sandown.
An inquest at Newport Coroner’s Court in May 2012 heard that Ms Charles had separated from her husband some weeks before their deaths. The court heard they both died from multiple injuries consistent with a fall.
George Johnston, the coroner, delivered a verdict of suicide in both cases. He reached this decision despite police and other evidence that she had been under pressure.
Maureen Johnston, Jacqueline’s mother, who lives in Chislehurst, south-east London, said their family has been left devastated by the death of her daughter. Ms Johnston said her daughter was a fantastic mother to her two teenage children from a previous relationship. Ms Johnston said: “She was a really lovely person. She was kind and she was always happy. She loved her family and she adored her children.”
The hearing was told Paul Charles, a former Metropolitan Police officer, was depressed after the breakdown of his five year relationship and over issues to do with their children.
Coastguards said the car was thought to have been travelling at more than 30mph (48km/h) when it went over the cliffs.
Friends of Ms Charles said she told them her husband wanted to kill himself and had pressured her to carry it out with him. The hearing was told the couple had attempted to poison themselves before by connecting a hosepipe to the car but Ms Charles had had a change of heart and begged to be let out. Mr Charles agreed and got out of the car as well.
Det Sgt Crane, of Hampshire Police, said a suicide note was found in Paul Charles’ wallet, as well as another at the home of Mrs Charles, in Union Road, Ryde. She told the inquest that the couple had a “volatile” relationship and lived apart. She added that Ms Charles, who had a drink problem and who had spent time in rehabilitation, had talked about killing herself. She said “She would often talk about taking her life, talked of her and Paul going to the pier to jump, she had said she was prepared this time,” said Det Sgt Crane.
However, Det Sgt Crane added Ms Charles had also said that she did not intend to take her own life. She told the hearing of Ms Charles’ allegation that: “Paul had started to apply pressure to her to go along with the suicide. Paul was still planning to take his own life, he had asked her to go to Culver Down to say goodbye. She said she had no intention to commit suicide whatsoever, she said she had too much to live for.”
The hearing was told there were suicide notes, both of which were written by Mr Charles. Ms Charles reportedly counter-signed both the letters written by Paul Charles, but her writing was not on them.
The Coroner said that “as a similar letter in her writing was discovered in a prominent position in her flat, coupled with the evidence of several witnesses that she didn’t appear to be under any form of compulsion or of fear or make any attempt to escape or jump out of the car, I have recorded a verdict of suicide in her case as well.”
He described Ms Charles and her husband as having been in a “destructive relationship” adding: “Like many destructive relationships, it came to not being able to live with them but not being able to live without them.”
After the hearing, Caroline Sharp, Ms Charles’s sister, said she was shocked that her sister had been put under pressure by her husband. Ms Sharp said: “She had her troubles but she was fun-loving. I still can’t believe it happened. I do not believe it’s the way she would have chosen to have done it if she had. Only they will truly know. She has left notes before but she hasn’t done it [killed herself].”
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the BBC and the Daily Telegraph.
Additional Note: For Our Daughters notes the comments from the police and coroner suggesting Ms Charles’ marriage was “volatile” and “destructive”. We note that such words are often used as euphemisms for the existence of domestic violence. However, there is no record that any evidence to support this was provided to the inquest.