Couple were 'happily married' before dementia killing, report finds
- Credit: East Anglia News Service
A woman stabbed to death by her husband at their Norfolk home is not believed to have experienced domestic abuse before her violent death, a report has found.
Hilda Hubbard, 76, was killed by her husband Michael, who had dementia, in September 2018.
Neighbours called 999 after seeing Mr Hubbard repeatedly stabbing his wife, known as Frances, with two kitchen knives as she tried to leave the couple’s retirement bungalow in Brooke.
He then tried to stab himself before police fired a rubber bullet to restrain the pensioner, who was 81 at the time. He was later charging him with murder and subsequently detained in a secure mental health unit after he was found to be unfit to stand trial over the death of his wife, to whom he had been married for 50 years.
A Domestic Homicide Review, which does not use the couple's real names, described the couple as “self-sufficient” and “wary of strangers and very private”.
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Said to be very proud of their son and daughter, who have gone on to achieve master’s degrees, the couple did not have a car but rode a scooter and sidecar together, which they called Wallace and Gromit.
The review looked at what organisations involved with the couple from July 2014, when Mr Hubbard first raised concerns about his memory loss up until Mrs Hubbard’s death, could learn from the case.
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In 2018 his memory loss had increased and he was also presenting with Parkinsonian symptoms and his GP referred him to the Memory Clinic for investigations.
At the time of the fatal stabbing the diagnostic process had not concluded, although Lewy Body Dementia was considered the likely diagnosis.
Mrs Hubbard - as her husband 's carer - had refused offers of support, the report said. Following his dementia symptoms the couple ‘became more private as they didn’t want everyone to know’.
Mr Hubbard became more withdrawn, as he was shy communicating with people and his wife put the children off from visiting, because he couldn’t cope with long visits.
The couple’s children said they had noticed that their mum was finding it tough caring for their dad but said that she never complained.
Their daughter told the report’s author: “It was one of the sadnesses of my mum’s life that she
never found a true friend. She used to mention it to me a lot. So, there is no person apart from us that she was very close to. But she wasn’t generally sad.
“She had been depressed herself for several years whilst things were tough financially for my parents while my dad was ill but soldiered on.
“Life didn’t turn out for either of them as they had expected, but they eventually won through and made an enviable life for themselves.”
The review panel had heard that on the day before the fatal stabbing Mr Hubbard had become confused and wandered to a neighbour’s house saying that he was frightened of being robbed. He had a large sum of money on him and told the neighbour that he had dementia, requesting her to ring the police on his behalf.
Officers found him “anxious and confused” and after calming him down they spoke to the couple’s son on the phone to explain what had happened before walking Mr and Mrs Hubbard back to their bungalow.
Police recorded this incident on the Adult Protection Incident system and classified it as a ‘standard risk’.
The report said professionals and organisation involved with the couple, including their GP, social housing provider and police, had “worked well together, sharing information in a timely
and robust way”.
But concluded that Mrs Hubbard had become “at risk from changes" in her husband's behaviour as his health declined.
The report states: “This could not have been anticipated by professionals, but with hindsight, Mrs Hubbard might have been better able to manage the situation and protect herself, if she had a coping strategy.
“Norfolk has many rural communities where older people are caring for loved ones living with dementia. Innovative ways need to be found to reach people who might be in a similar situation.”
Fatal stabbing shows ‘more help needed for dementia families and carers’
The pressures of caring for a loved one with dementia in the isolation of living in rural areas calls for more to be done to offer help, the report concluded.
The Domestic Homicide Review said that Mrs Hubbard did not give any indication that she was experiencing domestic abuse.
It added: “There was no reason for professional staff to delve deeper and it is likely that any probing would have alienated the couple from those services that they trusted.
“However, this review has highlighted the need to explore how older people living in rural areas can be reached in a way that is acceptable and meaningful for them.”
The report recommends that Norfolk County Council adult social care and Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust work with carers and their families to “empower them by providing guidance on how to stay safe and keep patients safe, plan for emergency situations, de-escalation techniques and the provision of resources”.