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Norfolk Broads: Man Killed Partner Then Himself
A mother was strangled by her partner then tied up and thrown from a boat into a river while her daughter slept a few feet away, an inquest has heard.
The body of 49-year-old Annette Creegan was found naked in the River Bure on the Norfolk Broads in August 2012 after a major police search which began after her 13-year-old daughter was found alone on a boat the couple had hired for a holiday.
The body of her partner, 41-year-old John Didier, was found nearby. Evidence suggests he had tied weights to his own arms and legs before jumping overboard to drown himself.
The girl told police she woke up one morning to find her mother was not there anymore and Didier said her mother had "gone away".
She stayed on the boat with him for another week before she woke up one morning to find he too had disappeared.
As the boat was surrounded by marsh and woodland with no footpaths, she felt unable to leave and did not have a mobile phone to contact anyone.
She was only discovered when a Norfolk Broads ranger noticed the boat had been moored in the same secluded spot for several days and he decided to approach it.
Ranger Andrew Ellson said: "The curtains were closed and the motor was running. I knocked on the side of the boat and the window opened and I saw a young girl who told me she was by herself."
Police launched a search of the river and Didier's body was discovered in the water weighed down with two 17.5kg dumb-bells tied to his feet and two 15kg weights tied to his wrists.
Ms Creegan's decomposed body was found in the river nearby the following day, suggesting she had been there about a week.
Pathologist Ben Swift said the hospital nurse was naked and her hands had been tied behind her knees.
She was weighed down with a 30kg dumb-bell and the cause of death was strangulation. Bruises to her fists suggested she had tried to fight off Didier.
Detective Constable Christina Stone told the inquest: "They had moored the boat at about 5.30pm on the Friday.
"The following day she (the girl) woke up and Mr Didier told her that Annette had left. She had no access to a mobile telephone and no means of getting off the boat so stayed there over the following days.
"Six days later she woke up and there was no sign of Mr Didier and she was rescued by a passing Broads ranger."
Giving evidence to the inquest, Detective Inspector Gary Bloomfield said: "I'm confident saying John Didier killed Annette then took his own life a number of days later.
"It seems he had planned the events of that week. There was no evidence he was mentally impaired. It was a deliberate decision to kill Annette then drown himself."
He added officers had found no evidence of any tension in the relationship and Didier's motive remained unclear.
Norfolk coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict that Ms Creegan died as a result of unlawful killing and that Didier committed suicide on either August 31 or September 1.
"What a grotesque irony that this happened in the idyllic setting of the Norfolk Broads," he said. "What a contrast between the calm serenity of the waters and this dreadful tragedy."
Ms Creegan worked as a "devoted" community nurse for the Trinity Hospice charity in Clapham Common, London, while Didier, originally from Ohio, previously worked in IT for the NHS.
Both families declined to comment as they left the inquest. The girl is being cared for by other members of her family.