Husband set fire to himself in garden after killing wife, inquest hears

By Marion Brennan | Streetly | News | Published:

James Barnes committed suicide at his parents' house after stabbing his wife Amy to death, an inquest heard.

James and Amy Barnes on their wedding day

A killer husband set fire to himself hours after stabbing his wife because he could not accept the breakdown of their marriage, a inquest heard.

James Barnes left emotional notes describing his mental anguish over the previous 12 months as the relationship had deteriorated and in particular the final seven days after his wife Amy informed him their three-year marriage was over.

The 30 year old had plunged a kitchen knife into Amy’s neck as she lay asleep in bed following her hospital night shift on September 25.

Amy Barnes was 32 when she died

He then fled to his parents’ home in Streetly, Walsall, stopping at a petrol station on the way to buy a container which he filled with fuel.

He arrived at the family home at around 3pm and had an evening meal with his parents before watching a football match on TV with his father.

Afterwards he asked for pen and paper and sat alone in the conservatory writing on his laptop.


The inquest heard he sent his brother Chris a text at 10:52pm saying: “I’m sorry for letting you down. Thanks for everything. I love you bruv. I’m going for a long sleep.”

His brother picked up the message at 11:27pm and concerned at the tone drove to their parents house. Spotting a fire in the back garden, he climbed over the gate and as he walked towards the flames, he realised it was a body.

The fire investigator Jason Dean said evidence at the scene suggested that Mr Barnes had poured petrol over himself on the lawn and walked to the side of the house where he set light to himself.

Forensic officers at the scene where Amy Barnes was found


A post mortem revealed that death was caused by burns and inhalation of fire fumes.

The inquest heard that days earlier the couple had spent a weekend in Brighton in a bid to save their marriage but the break was cut short after Amy told her husband she wanted a divorce.

They had also attended Relate marriage guidance sessions together and a councillor had noted that Mr Barnes was struggling to accept the marriage was over.

The couple had been married for three years

Chris Barnes said his brother had entered a spiral of depression in the last 12 months after a dispute with Amy’s family which had caused ‘a toxic environment’ but that there had been ‘no hint of the horror to come’.

In a tribute to his ‘shy, quiet, but brilliant’ brother he said: “He loved Amy deeply and sincerely. The person who did this is not the person we remember. It’s really hard for us to comprehend the events of that day, it was so out of character.”

Det Insp Caroline Corfield said that a note at the scene addressed to his parents and Chris said: “I’ve made a lot of wrong decisions and I can’t face it any more. This is the final straw.”

She said Chris Barnes had called Amy’s mother after finding his brother’s body to alert her. She then went to the couple’s home in Rednal where she found her daughter’s body.

A notebook with notes in Mr Barnes’ handwriting was found near the bed in which he wrote: “The pain and anguish of this last week has been a nightmare. I can’t do this, I’m so sorry. I love you all, it’s too much, James.”

He also posted his feelings on Facebook, the inquest heard.

Concluding that Mr Barnes had committed suicide, Birmingham coroner Mrs Louise Hunt said: “This is an absolute tragedy for the family.”

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or at

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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