East Devon: man kills fiance in row over presents

PUBLISHED: 11:47 26 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:03 26 January 2017


An inquest has heard how a pensioner, 66, killed his fiance, aged 71, after a row over gifts, then hanged himself in jail after admitting his crime.

A man killed his fiancé in a row over Christmas presents, an inquest has been told.

Bob Broom battered Hilda Oakland over the back of her head with a scaffold pole and then strangled her with a rope wrapped around her neck twice.

He then dumped her lifeless body in the back of an old van packed with rubbish in a field of grazing cattle.

Broom, aged 66, later drove to a police station to give himself up – but he never went on trial because he hanged himself in jail three weeks after admitting killing her.

An inquest in Exeter, Devon, yesterday heard that the pair, both widowed, got engaged in January 2015.

But Det Con Paul Burrow told the coroner:”It was a fraught relationship and they argued frequently.”

He said Broom confessed to what he had done in police interviews and he told cops:”She was very possessive and jealous of my relationship and friendship with other females.”

He said he had tried to end the romance ‘for six weeks’ but retired shop assistant Hilda, who was known as Joy, wanted to ‘give it a go’.

DC Burrow said on a December day in 2015 the pair went to a field at Fenny Bridges, East Devon, to feed cattle.

He said: “They argued about Christmas presents for family and argued about their relationship. They were both worked up, shouting and swearing.”

Broom, of Millhead Road, Honiton, Devon, told police that 71 year old Joy started to ‘lash out at him and he lost it’.

He then took out the scaffold pole and smashed it over the back of her head, knocking her to the ground.

Broom said:”I suppose I must have wanted her gone – to be dead.”

He then fetched the two metre long tow rope from his Land Rover and ‘wound it twice around her neck pulling it tight’ for a minute ‘to make sure that she would be dead’.

He then dragged her into the back of his old van and dumped her body along with the iron bar and rope ‘because the cattle were wandering around the field’.

He went home to change his blood stained clothing before, later the same day, drove 14 miles to Exeter’s main police station where he told the front desk he had killed his ‘wife’.

He said:”I felt I should tell the police first because that was the way I was brought up.”

He was ‘calm, matter of fact, seemed resigned and not visibly upset’ as he confessed what he had done, said the detective.

Joy’s friends from Wiltshire, from where she had sold up to move to Devon to look for a new home with Broom, said she was a private person.

But they kept in contact and saw Joy was wearing her new engagement ring.

But Joy said Broom started to ‘poo poo’ everything when a house sale fell through.

She complained:”Everything in his house was green – walls, carpets, everything.”

She said keen bellringer Broom hadn’t even cleared out his late wife’s clothes and possessions.

Joy told pals that she was ‘walking on eggshells’ and Broom was being ‘chippy’ and snapped during arguments.

Her friends called her on December 2nd and left a message saying they would ring the following day – but Joy was dead by then.

After he went to the police station, officers raced out to try and find Joy to see if she was still alive – but she was already dead in the van in the field near a farm.

Dr Russell Delaney, a forensic Home Office pathologist, concluded that the pensioner had died from a combination of blunt force head wounds and compression of her neck by the ligature.

The deputy Devon coroner John Tomalin recorded a conclusion that she was unlawfully killed by Broom.

The inquest heard that Broom appeared an Exeter court at the end of May last year where he denied her murder – but admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

He was due to face a trial in July but a month before he was found hanged in his cell at Exeter remand prison having taken his own life, said police.

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