A mother of three has described the heartbreaking last moment she saw her children before her husband murdered them and threw himself off a cliff.
Ruth Fuller, 34, told husband Ceri, 35, she was leaving him because of a ‘schoolgirl crush’ on a university lecturer.
She asked him to give her space while she packed by taking their children Sam, 12, Rebecca, eight, and Charlotte, seven, on a drive away from their home in Milkwall in Gloucestershire, an inquest heard.
She heard a car door slam but it was only much later, when she saw her son’s treasured mobile was left behind, that she knew ‘something horrible had happened’, she said.
In fact, her husband had taken the children to a secluded beauty spot in Shropshire, where he stabbed them to death with a 6.5inch hunting knife before killing himself.
‘I was up early on the Thursday and I was telling him I was going soon,’ Mrs Fuller said. ‘I was trying to pack a bag. I said, “take the kids for a drive and I will tidy up the house”.
‘That was the last time I saw Ceri. All I remember is hearing the car door shut.’
Unaware of the impending tragedy, Mrs Fuller left the house and continued to send ‘flirty’ texts to tutor Mark Lindley-Highfield, 38. She told the hearing the first sign something was wrong came when the children’s school called. ‘School rang to ask where the kids were and I said they were sick. They had been sick recently.’
Mrs Fuller became increasingly worried about where her husband had gone.
‘By this point I was with mum and I was panicking. I realised I didn’t know if the children were at home or at school.
‘I had walked around and looked in their duvets before I left and not seen them.
‘I went home with my dad and there was Ceri’s phone and there was also Sam’s phone, which was unusual,’ she said.
‘At this point, I knew something horrible had happened but I couldn’t admit [it] to myself or mum or dad.’
Distraught, Mrs Fuller attempted to kill herself with a kitchen knife, but was held back by her father, the inquest heard.
She said: ‘My head was completely broken. I didn’t know where the children were and I didn’t know what that meant.
‘I just panicked and ended up having a mental breakdown. I cannot believe he did something so hateful and cruel.’
The inquest yesterday found the children were unlawfully killed by their father, who then took his own life. Andrew Barkley, deputy coroner for Shropshire, called it ‘a scene of unimaginable horror’.
The couple met at university and married in 2009, the inquest heard. ‘Possessive’ Fuller, a paper-mill worker, once threatened to strangle his wife with a phone cord, and also allegedly hit one of the children.
Mrs Fuller, an artist, described her husband’s tears last July when she admitted her feelings for Mr Lindley-Highfield, whom she met at her Open University course.
‘I had admitted I thought he was attractive and Ceri didn’t like that,’ she said in a statement read out in court. ‘Later he stood in front of me crying, holding his wedding ring, and asked me if he should take it with him.
‘I think Ceri was feeling neglected. He used to insist on driving me to and picking me up from my tutorials.
‘I think it was his way of making sure I came straight home. It was difficult for Ceri to see me becoming more intelligent, happier and interacting with other people because he was so possessive.’
The children’s bodies were found in woods near a disused quarry in Poles Coppice near Shrewsbury, four days after they went missing on July 12 last year.
Fuller dumped their bodies before jumping from a 60ft cliff. Sam died from a single neck wound and his two sisters suffered multiple stab injuries, some to the chest.
Mr Barkley added: ‘What happened in the coppice that night might never be known.
‘It was a scene of unimaginable horror, the kind of things nightmares are made of.’