A doctor bludgeoned his wife to death before killing himself over fears Japanese Knotweed was blighting their home, an inquest heard.
Kenneth McRae, aged 52, battered his wife Jane, 55, with a bottle of perfume at their home in Rowley Regis. He then took his own life by cutting his wrists and throat.
In a suicide note left for police who discovered the pair on July 17, Mr McRae said the growth of the weed into their back garden from Rowley Regis Golf Course had ‘led to my growing madness’.
An inquest at Smethwick Council House heard how Mrs McRae, who was found in a bed on the second floor, had been dead for ‘several days’ before her husband’s suicide.
Detective Inspector Derek Packman read out the suicide note, which was signed by Mr McRae.
It said: “I believe I was not an evil man until the balance of my mind was disturbed by the fact that there is a patch of Japanese Knotweed which has been growing over our boundary fence on the Rowley Regis Golf Course.” Mr McRae, who was a doctor of science, said he tried to curb the problem by cutting it down, but said the weed ‘proved impossible to stop’ and had made their house in Bryan Budd Close unsaleable.
The note continued: “The worry of it migrating on to our garden and subsequently undermining the structure over the next few years, with consequent legal battles which we won’t win, has led to my growing madness.
“Jane and I were a very private couple, we chose to have no real friends, just enjoying each other. But the despair has got so bad that I have killed her, as I did not want her to be alone without income when I killed myself.”
Their adopted son Mark McRae was at the inquest. He was adopted by the couple aged eight in 1995. He first lived with them in Oldbury before moving to Sledmore Road in Dudley.
However, when aged 17, he moved to Weston-super-Mare, the town his birth family lived and was estranged from his adoptive parents when they died.
The 27-year-old freelance photographer told the Express & Star: “The police told me about the note, but I spoke to a neighbour and knotweed has not been an issue noticed. I have also lived here since August, and it has not been a problem. I don’t understand it, no-one understands it. They had a successful life, they had money – something else could have been going on.”
At the inquest hearing yesterday, DI Packham said the bath in the house was filled with water that was heavily blood stained, with more blood leading from there to the bedroom where Mr McRae was found on the first floor.
Three knives were found with blood on them at the scene, but only one was consistent with Mr McRae’s injuries. DI Packham added: “I am entirely satisfied he was responsible for the death of Jane McRae.” The inquest also heard from Mrs McRae’s sister Margaret Baker who said they last spoke at their mother’s funeral in 2001.
Senior Black Country coroner Robin Balmain revealed that investigations found some knotweed, but ‘nothing of any great seriousness’, and said that although the plant was in the vicinity it was not on the McRaes’ property.
Mr Balmain said: “This is clearly a tragedy. It’s difficult to understand what was going on in Mr McRae’s mind.” Mr Balmain recorded that Mrs McRae was unlawfully killed, and that Mr McRae killed himself.