Lab tech killed wife and himself after being driven 'mad' by Japanese knotweed problem

A lab technician murdered his wife before killing himself after being driven ‘mad’ by Japanese knotweed growing over his house, an inquest has heard.

The scene at Bryan Budd Close
Police at Bryan Budd Close after the bodies were discovered

Police found Kenneth McRae and his wife Jane dead at their home on Bryan Budd Close, Rowley Regis, on July 17 last year after his colleagues raised concerns that they had not seen him.

Mr McRae was found on the first floor, his wrists and throat having been cut, and Mrs McRae was found in bed on the second floor with head injuries.

An inquest into the couple's deaths at Smethwick Council House on Monday heard that 55-year-old Mrs McRae had 'lain dead for several days' prior to Mr McRae killing himself.

She had been hit over the head with a perfume bottle, which was found at the scene.

A suicide note addressed to West Midlands Police was also found, and was read out in full at the inquest by Detective Inspector Derek Packham

A forensic officer outside a property in Bryan Budd Close, Rowley Regis
A forensic officer at the house

It revealed Mr McRae, aged 52 and who worked at Solvay chemicals plant in Langley, had a 'growing madness' over some Japanese knotweed he claimed was creeping onto their property from a neighbouring golf course.

The note, signed by Mr McRae, read: "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.

"They were told about it by Sandwell Council two years ago, but did nothing about it.

"So I started to cut it down regularly to control it, in a vain attempt to stop the blight on our property.

"This was illegal, and it has proved impossible to stop, and made our unmortgaged property unsaleable.

"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."

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.

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 the McRaes' son Mark, who said he had not seen his parents for around 10 years, and 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.

He said: "This is clearly a tragedy.

"I get the impression that Mr McRae was possibly becoming paranoid, there's no direct evidence of that of course other than what he's done.

"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.