Staff had no idea anything was wrong when George Lyons, an 88-year-old pensioner collected his 85-year-old wife Betty from the care home where she had been living. Betty, a retired librarian, had been suffering from dementia for years and her husband, whom everyone knew to be devoted to her, simply told staff that he was taking her for a day out. What nobody knew was that this would be the last time they would be seen alive.
When the bodies of George and Betty Lyons were later discovered in their home in Rochester on April 21, police had no trouble determining cause of death. Betty had been killed by "compression to the neck" while George had hanged himself. In a note addressed to his son and daughter-in-law which had been left in the kitchen, he had simply written: "I'm the same as mum, I'm sorry Simon and Lorraine."
Separate inquests into both deaths were recently conducted in Maidstone, Kent. Based on evidence presented, it was determined that Betty had been diagnosed with late-onset dementia in 2009 and had been determined to be severely cognitively impaired by 2016. As a result, she was moved into the care home in 2017 leaving her husband living alone.
Following Betty's move, George was visibly devastated and upset and was reportedly lonely afterward. Though he had never been formally diagnosed with dementia himself, he expressed concerns about growing memory loss to his physician and others noted that his condition was deteriorating. He continued to visit his wife regularly and reportedly told a mental health nurse that he would "not allow the dementia to dictate how they lived their lives."
As for Betty, she appeared to be functioning well at the home though she was often "aggressive and quite forceful" as her condition worsened. Her son noted in a prepared statement which he read at the hearing that "They were totally devoted to each other. Everything was done together as it had been all their married life. He was so lonely without her. He was constantly upset and cried."
On the day of their deaths, George was seen crying outside his home before going to visit his wife. He then took his wife out as he often did and they returned to their home by taxi. Their son, Simon, would find the bodies later that same day.
After declaring the deaths to be a murder-suicide, Assistant Coroner Katrina Hepburn described it as a "tragic, tragic case." She then went on to say that there was "no suggestion that the events that did unfold were about to. t's difficult to say what happened and what was going through George's mind at the time. (George) considered he was suffering from dementia. "Although there has been no evidence to confirm diagnosis. It seems that this is something George had decided on his own not subject to medical confirmation. "He then took Betty's life and then went on to take his own life."