James and Amy Barnes: Scorned husband stabbed wife to death after she asked for divorce, inquest hears

A scorned husband fatally stabbed his wife while she was sleeping after struggling to come to terms with their divorce, an inquest heard.

James and Amy Barnes
James and Amy Barnes

James Barnes plunged a kitchen knife into Amy Barnes' neck as she lay in bed following her hospital night shift.

The 30-year-old then fled the 'murder' scene and set fire to himself at his parents' Streetly home, Birmingham Coroners' Court was told.

At an inquest into Mrs Barnes' death on Tuesday, Senior Coroner Mrs Louise Hunt recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

She said: "She was killed unlawfully by her husband. She had recently told her husband she wanted a divorce and several hours after her death, he set fire to himself."

Mrs Barnes asked her husband-of-three-years for a divorce after the pair, who had been seeing a guidance counsellor, returned from a weekend trip away.

Her husband was in the process of moving his belongings out of their Birmingham house when he horrifically killed her, the inquest heard.

Mother Valerie Shimell paid tribute to her daughter, describing the 32-year-old as her 'precious gift', in a statement read to the court.

She said: "This extremely tragic loss of my wonderful baby has left a huge hole in not only my life, but all the people who knew her - the beautiful girl who smiles with her eyes.

"Everyone was so proud to have loved her. We are all devastated by her loss. A part of me died with her on that awful day, a part that will never be repaired."

The bereaved mother went on to tell the court her daughter was convinced Mr Barnes would never hurt her.

Mrs Shimell added: "She was always concerned about him because she thought he would do something to himself if she left him."

Nursery nurse Mrs Barnes left Birmingham Women's Hospital, where she cared for sick babies, and made her way home at 7.45am on September 25.

Her body was discovered by her mother and sister at the couple's home in Cofton Park Close, Rednal, later that day.

DI Caroline Corfield, of West Midlands Police's homicide team, said Mr Barnes had let himself into the house with a key before using a knife from inside the home to stab his wife.

He locked the door on the way out and then travelled 15 miles to his parents' home in Linforth Drive, where he killed himself.

A small blue notebook uncovered near Mrs Barnes' body detailed the pair's marital woes and was signed by her husband, the court heard.

The handle of the blade was also uncovered in a bin bag packed with cuddly toys, found in the bedroom.

Giving evidence at the inquest, the officer confirmed police were called to the Streetly home just before midnight before officers found Mrs Barnes' body face down in the bed at least 40 minutes later.

She added: "It did appear that she had been attacked in bed in her sleep. James Barnes was responsible for the murder of Amy Barnes.

"There were no signs whatsoever that James would ever be violent to Amy."

In a statement read to the court, younger sisters Lucy and Emily revealed their heartbreak and said: "[Amy] was truly beautiful, inside and out. We know it's a cliche, but we have lost a huge part of ourselves.

"We are a trio and losing Amy has changed out family forever, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved her."

Pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt told the inquest part of the knife blade remained lodged in Mrs Barnes' neck after her husband wounded her.

She suffered 'massive blood loss' and had no defensive injuries, he added.

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