Ex-robber suffocated his partner near Machynlleth

Reporter:

Jonny Drury

A CONVICTED armed robber who had accused his partner of being unfaithful suffocated her before committing suicide, an inquest  heard.

Nigel McGrath, 45, suffocated his partner, Tracey Cockrell, at a small holding in Llanwrin on April 10, 2016, before leaving her family a note, and going to an  outbuilding, where he hanged himself.

At Welshpool Magistrates Court on Friday, senior coroner for South and Central Wales, Andrew Barkley, recorded conclusions of unlawful killing and suicide.

Speaking at the inquest, Robert Wilson, who had moved to the property with his wife Susan, originally from Yorkshire, recalled the events that led to the couple being in Machynlleth.

Miss Cockrell and Mr McGrath, who were also originally from Yorkshire, had been living with Mr Wilson and his wife.

He told the court he moved to the property in February 2015, with his wife and his 97-year-old father Frank.

He met Mr McGrath in Sheffield, and he agreed to clear out a property with Mr Wilson, and go down to help him renovate the small holding in Wales.

Mr McGrath stayed on numerous occasions to help with the work, before his partner, Miss Cockrell, a carer, came to visit him.

Mr Wilson and his wife then proposed Miss Cockrell and Mr McGrath could move in with them, with him helping with the renovation and her helping to look after Mr Wilson Senior.

This was agreed and they moved in December 2015. Mr Wilson described things as “working like clockwork”.

She gained a job as a carer at the Cartiff Dyfi Care Home, however following a trip to Rotherham in March 2016, when Mr McGrath was involved in a court case, things changed.

He accused her of being unfaithful while in Rotherham and arguments ensued before Mr Wilson had asked the pair to leave the property.

He offered Mr McGrath £500 to leave, and his caravan, before the couple said they wanted Tracey to stay with them and care for Mr Wilson Senior.

On Saturday, April 9,  Miss Cockrell went  into Machynlleth for a night out.

There she was with work colleague Barbara Jones, who said in a statement, that on the evening, Miss Cockrell had said to her that her partner was a bully and she was too scared to move on.

She also said she did not want to go home that evening.

Miss Cockrell left around midnight and was taken home in a taxi by Hugh Thomas to the rural home.

He said he had taken her partner home a few weeks prior. He told police Mr McGrath had told him he had served time in prison and “would stab anyone who started on him.”

Miss Cockrell’s daughter, Adele Johnson, who was at the inquest on Friday, said in a statement her mother told her Nigel had been locked up for manslaugher before and she added he was jealous of her.

Speaking about her mother, she said she loved caring for people.

Miss Johnson added Mr McGrath was jealous and controlling and at one point had said in Machynlleth he wanted to stab Miss Cockrell in the head and hang her from the balcony, before implying he was joking.

When Miss Johnson was informed of her mother’s death by the police she said: “He has killed her hasn’t he?”

Miss Cockrell’s sister Sharon Rogers, also present at the inquest, said Mr McGrath had served time in prison in his 20s for armed robbery and manslaughter.

She said on visiting her sister in Machynlleth, her sister was finally in a happy place, after she had struggled with the death of her daughter for many years.

She visited with her husband Chris, who struck up a conversation with Mr McGrath at the property on one visit, with Mr McGrath saying “I could throttle her,” after he accused her of being unfaithful.

DC Davies, part of the investigation team, was at the inquest and read out a note left by Mr McGrath which said: “To Tracey’s family, I couldn’t go without her, I love her to bits, and I am sorry.

“This has been a huge accident, and I cannot go back to jail.”

He also made derogatory remarks towards Mr Wilson for asking him to leave.

DC Davies also revealed that Victoria Wilson, Mr Wilson’s daughter, had been visiting on the weekend of the tragedy.

She revealed there had been a past  encounter between Mr McGrath and Miss Wilson and that he had also propositioned her that evening.

A domestic homicide review was carried out following the tragedy, to see if any complaints had been made with regards to Mr McGrath and domestic violence.

It was found his former wife, Heather, had made a complaint to South Yorkshire Police in late 2012.

Talking to the County Times after the inquest, Miss Cockrells’s sister, Sharon Rogers, said: “She was a good mother, sister and nanna.

“Today does give us closure, we know what happened now, and we can do our best to move on.”

Mr Barkley gave his condolences to the family, before concluding that Miss Cockrell was unlawfully killed, as a result of a trauma from pressure to the face and neck.

He added Mr McGrath committed suicide and died from hanging. 

See full story in the County Times

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