Man murdered Havering Council social worker and daughters, inquest hears
PUBLISHED: 14:55 06 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:50 09 November 2015
A man strangled his wife and twin daughters to death before he hanged himself at a reservoir, an inquest heard this morning.
Assistant coroner Ian Wade QC found that Rethish Kumar Pullarkattil Kunjunny, 37, killed his wife Shighi Kotuvala Padmanabhan, 37, and children Niya and Neha Rethishkumar, both 13, at their home in Juniper Court, Grove Road, Chadwell Heath on Sunday, May 10.
Kunjunny was found hanged days later on Wednesday May 13, at Woodford Reservoir, Walthamstow.
Mr Wade said: “I find beyond reasonable doubt that Shighi Kotuvala Padmanabhan was the victim of murder, Niya Rethishkumar was the victim of murder and Neha Rethishkumar was the victim of murder.”
He concluded that Kunjunny’s death was a result of suicide.
Giving evidence at Walthamstow Coroners Court, Det Insp John Logan said that family arrived in the UK from India in 2005, first settling in the Elm Park area and then moving to Chadwell Heath in 2007.
Kunjunny was a casual worker, who worked as a care home chef and Mrs Padmanabhan worked as a social worker at Havering Council and King George Hospital.
Kunjunny and Mrs Padmanabhan had an arranged marriage 14 years ago.
Det Insp Logan said: “In the week leading up to their deaths Shighi sent a message to a close friend saying that she was having marital problems.”
He said there was a dispute between the couple about a house they were building in India – the build was being overseen by Mrs Padmanabhan’s family.
The inquest heard that Kunjunny believed that his wife’s family were taking money from them.
“There was controversy about whether the funds were being properly used by the family,” he said.
A note found in Kunjunny’s bag near where he was found hanged read: “My mother-in-law has cheated me.”
“What did the investigation reveal about how bad this dispute was?” asked Mr Wade.
Det Insp Logan said: “A further conversation took place over the phone between Shighi and her friend and in that conversation she described that the relationship had come physically violent.
“She had been punched and kicked and she said it was her husband.”
A text message from Mrs Padmanabhan had been sent to the friend on the Sunday prompting the friend to visit the house to speak to the couple.
Det Insp Logan added: “The friend said that it was clear that she had been crying and that there was an acceptance that the marriage was over – she had the impression that he was smiling and fine throughout and said that ‘if she wanted a divorce that’s what she could have’.
“The friend offered a place to stay but Shighi said it was fine because it would be easier to go to work the next day.”
Another message was sent by Mrs Padmanabhan later that day via messaging app Whatsapp at 10.45pm.
She said in the message: “I can’t even die because of my two children. I don’t know what to do, but I no longer wish to live as a wife.”
The message was not picked up until Monday morning – after she was killed.
Later on that Monday evening police attended the home after concerns were raised by the girls’ school – Chadwell Heath Academy – and Mrs Padmanabhan workplace.
Police found the home in darkness and thought it may be possible that the family may have gone to India.
Mr Wade said: “There’s nothing out of order about the house – there’s no reasonable case for the police to operate and take dramatic powers or brake in – not at that stage.”
Det Insp Logan said: “That escalated on Tuesday when there was still no response.”
Police broke in on the Tuesday and found the mother and Niya dead, side by side in one bed and Neha dead, in a bedroom adjacent.
“The scene showed no signs of disturbance – it was a typical family home and there was no sign of forced entry,” said Det Insp Logan.
“There was no sign of the gentleman or the family car.
“His work had tried to get hold of him for work but he didn’t respond.
“He was a flexible worker with a zero hours contract – he didn‘t respond to a message, which was out of character.”
LAS was called and the three females were pronounced extinct at the scene and it was deemed as suspicious
The mother’s mobile phone was missing from the house and was found in the family car – a red Honda Jazz – in Ilford.
Mr Wade said: “The evidence is clear and overwhelming.
“They had come to the UK and lived here as a family – and a hard working family where both mother and father worked. It seems to me from the evidence that the marriage was not a happy one.
“There is very real evidence that this was a relationship where Shighi was the victim of a physical attack – she was set upon by her husband in the preceding week.
“The circumstances in which her absence was noted and then her dead body was found in my opinion speaks a deliberate and clandestine act.
“It is the same action of the same person who has carried out an act on each of the three females.
“I can ensure beyond reasonable doubt that he [Kunjunny] was the person that carried it out – there is motive and opportunity.”
The inquest heard how Kunjunny purchased an Oyster card in Ilford on the Monday – after he killed his wife and daughters.
Det Insp Logan said: “He travelled up to Wood Green on busses, he went in and out of stores purchasing items to hang himself with.
“There isn’t any reason he went to Wood Green – I would say it is random, he was not thinking straight whilst he was deciding what he was going to do.”
He withdrew cash on two occasions, he bought ropes and razors from Poundland.
He also bought a beanie hat and he was wearing it when he was found.
“His Oyster card was last used on the 123 bus to Forest Road [Walthamstow] where he was found hanging,” said Det Insp Logan.
“It shows that he boarded in Ilford at 8.03pm and got off at 8.36pm [on Tuesday].
“His wrists were found bound together – it’s to stop you from letting yourself down, it’s quite commonplace.”
Mr Wade said: “There’s nothing to suspect he was a victim of somebody else’s crime.”
He added: “There were no other writings found, there was nothing that referred to his wife or children.
“It seems to me that Kunjunny was a man of ordinary reasonable maturity, who had a job, who had a wife and two grown teenage daughters, and he also appears to have had deeply held and obsessively held views that he was being cheated by members of his wife’s family that he should have thought this in some way explained what followed.
“He appears, it seems to me, to have been driven to the point where he took the lives of his wife and his two daughters by strangling them in their house.
“He abandoned his car and obtained an Oyster card – it’s an indication that he was troubled and he didn’t quite know what to do next. It was some indication that he was becoming overwhelmed by the implications of what he had done.
“I am satisfied that he carried out his own death and there is no evidence to suggest there was anybody else involved.”