Holbrook inquest: Coroner’s summary begins

The coroner in the inquest into the deaths of a pregnant mother, her toddler son and her former partner at Well Yard, Holbrook has been summing up the case to jurors.

Doctor Robert Hunter began outlining five weeks of at times disturbing evidence to Derby and South Derbyshire Coroners’ Court by addressing the jury as to their role in the proceedings.

He said the five men and six women are required to return a cause of death on the balance of probabilities for 38-year-old Rachael Slack, her 23 month old son Auden and his father, her ex-partner Andrew Cairns.

Jurors will also be required to determine how, when and where each came by their deaths and under what circumstances.

They can deliver individual verdicts of ‘unlawful killing’ or ‘suicide’ for each of the three deceased - or deliver an open, or narrative, verdict.

Dr Hunter first revisited evidence given at the witness stand by Rachael Slack’s mother Jean Slack.

He told how Ms Slack had become more aware of Mr Cairn’s depressive tendencies when he and Rachael moved into her home in Ripley in 2008. The couple, who met in Ronda, Spain had previously lived in a converted barn at Wessington, but the landlord of the property had decided to sell.

Dr Hunter said: “At this time she said Mr Cairns was getting worse, he would sit all day not speaking, just sitting in a chair.”

By Christmas 2008, after the birth of their son, Rachael and Mr Cairn’s relationship had all but ended.

The following April he moved to a bungalow in Marehay.

Rachael and Auden continued to see him most days, Ms Slack had told the jury, but his behaviour continued to get increasingly unusual.

The coroner, quoting Ms Slack, said: “Andrew said every day that he wanted to commit suicide, he would say every day that he wanted to die.”

A week before her daughter’s death Ms Slack had said Mr Cairns was ‘always ringing’ Rachael, sometimes at night, wanting to see her.

The coroner moved on to recall the evidence given by Andrew Cairns’ sister Diane Belshaw and that of Miss Slack’s partner at the time of her death Robert Barlow, whom she was expecting a child with.

Mrs Belshaw had previously told the inquest how her jet-setting brother, a former golf pro with an American PGA Tour licence, worked in Ibiza and Israel before settling in Los Angeles and marrying his first wife, a Hollywood make-up artist. But his deterioration was such that by By 2010 he would call his sister ‘day and night’ she said, talking of killing himself and about his concerns over access to his son.

Much of Thursday’s summing up told of the way police dealt with a series of incidents involving Rachael Slack and Mr Cairns.

He told how Mr Cairns was arrested both on May 26 and on May 27.

On the second occasion, following making threats to kill Miss Slack at a park in Denby, he was assessed twice within a 24-hour period and released on police bail so further evidence could be gathered.

Police, the coroner said, chose not to install a panic alarm at Rachael Slack’s home, or initiate Cocoon Watch - which would have informed her neighbours of the risk he posed.

Thursday’s summing up concluded with the final day of Mr Cairn’s life, in which he first visited his GP in Ripley, seeming agitated and talking often about his fears over having access to his son.

He told his doctor in the morning of June 2, 2010, Michael Small “These are going to be the most important of your career,” the coroner said.

Later he boarded a bus to Holbrook before thumbing a lift one mile to Well Yard. The driver that picked him up had told the court Mr Cairns seemed a “perfect gentleman with a normal demeanour.”

Then coroner Dr Hunter revisited the evidence given by Rachael Slack’s neighbours, of the events shortly after 11am that day.

Norma Way had heard screaming and called police before desperately trying to gain access to the cottage.

When the police arrived they found all the doors and windows locked, Dr Hunter said. Inside they found bodies of Auden, Miss Slack and Mr Cairns.

A knife rested by the crease of Mr Cairn’s trousers.

Dr Hunter is expected to conclude his summing up, more than 40,000 words in length on Monday, October 21 before sending the jury out to deliberate their verdict.