Walsall mother shot violent ex-partner then killed herself

Mother-of-three Clare Sly shot her violent ex-partner with a sawn-off shotgun and then killed herself after suffering up to 25 years of abuse, an inquest heard.

Clare Sly, aged 39, and Derrick Vassell, 43
Clare Sly, aged 39, and Derrick Vassell, 43

The 39-year-old had been bombarded with more than 160 text messages in less than 24 hours from Derrick Vassell before their bodies were discovered at her home in Walsall.

She used the double-barrel shotgun to shoot her former partner in the chest and head. She then pulled the trigger on herself from point blank range in Laneside Gardens, Birchills, on June 8 last year.

An inquest at Smethwick Coroner’s Court yesterday was told the messages were “potentially threatening” and of a “sinister” nature.

Separated

The couple were separated but the court heard the 43-year-old had parked by her address from midday on June 7 - and waited outside for more than 12 hours to be let in.

It was only late in the evening that any of his messages were responded to and he was allowed inside at around 1.30am.

The couple’s eldest son, Anthony, was at home in another room and said in a statement to police that he heard loud bangs.

His mother then came into the kitchen holding the gun and said “I have got to do it to myself.” Mr Vassell was found downstairs with forensic experts believing he had been shot from the stairs at a maximum of 4ft away.

Miss Sly was discovered in the upstairs bedroom with a single shotgun wound to the chest. Post mortems showed they both died as a result of the chest injuries.

The inquest was told Mr Vassell, of Penkridge Street, Walsall, had a history of criminal offending including robbery aged 12, wounding and assault. There were concerns about Alumwell Junior School teaching assistant Miss Sly losing weight prior to her death.

In his statement, Anthony, who was 23 at the time, said his mother told him she was 13 when the violence started and she was struck on the face.

The most recent occasion of domestic violence had been in the April.

Black Country Coroner Robin Balmain said a verdict of unlawful killing was not suitable. He recorded a verdict of death due to being shot in the course of a domestic incident.

He said it was “abundantly obvious” Miss Sly had shot herself.

“If I were to describe the relationship between Clare Sly and Derrick Vassell as difficult that would be, I think, an understatement.

“It seems to me she was probably under his control, he seemed to me to be a controlling person who she clearly lived in fear of.

“I regard the barrage, the unrelenting barrage of texts he sent to be potentially threatening and somewhat sinister.

“What happened was eventually she appears to have given up. She sends a text shortly before these deaths occur saying enough was enough.”

Violent

The majority of her family were unaware of how she was feeling at the time.

Speaking after the hearing, Miss Sly’s brother-in-law Wayne Dean said: “He was a violent man for 25 years.

None of the family knew what was going on, she was a very private person.

Her mother Eileen Sly added: “She was a very good mother.

“I brought her up on my own she was very bright and intelligent. She passed for Queen Mary’s.

“I couldn’t get her to talk the last three years.

She just clammed and really went distant.”