Crowbar and torch found next to Chester lodger's body


Staff reporter (Chester First)

A DISABLED pensioner told an inquest she was accused of murdering her lodger after his body was found next to a crowbar in his bedroom.

Margaret Cross, 67, of Kingsway in Newton, Chester, was arrested and questioned by detectives following the death of Peter Williams on December 30, 2013.

Retired production operator Mr Williams, 66, who was also Mrs Cross's former partner, died as a result of several blows to the head while drunk.

A forensic crime scene examination later revealed that he had likely fallen out of bed and hit his head on the corner of a chest of drawers and the skirting board.

Giving evidence at yesterday’s inquest, held at Chester Magistrates’ Court, Mrs Cross said: “Why was I taken to Blacon Police Station and charged with murder?”

After the hearing, she told the Leader: “I was horrified to be accused of murder; I was very upset. I was kept in a police cell overnight and then questioned for seven hours.

“I’m 67 and disabled. Do I look like the sort of person who would do that?

“He always slept with a crowbar under the bed in case we had any intruders. I do the same.”

The inquest heard paramedics had been called to the house on Kingsway at 4.50pm after Mrs Cross dialled 999.

But when they arrived, she could not find the key to let them in and a police officer had to be called to barge down the front door, delaying entry by about 25 minutes.

Mr Williams, who was lying by his bed close to a crowbar and heavy metal torch, was declared dead at the scene.

Paramedic Rhodri Baker told the court Mrs Cross has spoken to them through the letter box and one minute suggested Mr Williams was unconscious, and the next implied he was “fine and talking”.

He said: “The whole job had an aura of suspicion. Some things the lady said didn’t tally up.”

DC Andrew Roberts, who interviewed Mrs Cross, added: “She appeared quite confused and didn't have a particularly good memory of the events and that evening.

There was a lot of ambiguity.”

However, Det Chief Insp Nigel Wenham, who led on the case, said: “The crowbar and Maglite were a concern – but a visual inspection didn’t indicate they were involved in any way with how Mr Williams ended up in that position, deceased.

“We were satisfied the injuries were most likely caused by contact with the corner of the chest of drawers and skirting board.”

It emerged that Mr Williams had a history of falling over and sustaining injuries while drunk, and had struggled with alcohol addiction.

Assistant coroner for Cheshire, Geoff Roberts, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The cause of death was said to be acute alcohol toxicity with blunt force head injury, coupled with coronary artery arteriosclerosis.

Paying tribute to her brother after the inquest, Janice Wynne said: “He didn’t live like that; that’s not how he should be remembered.

“He was a very hard-working man; very conscientious. He wasn’t one for sporty things but he did like cycling.

“He was very fit and healthy. Throughout his working life he never had a single day off sick.”

l Cheshire Police confirmed Mrs Cross had been arrested, held overnight and questioned following Mr Williams’ death – but was never charged.

A spokesman said: “During investigations, it is often necessary for the police to detain individuals while enquiries are carried out, particularly for serious crimes such as murder.

“This enables officers to carry out a thorough and professional investigation.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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