London - A woman who slashed her elderly father’s throat with a shovel before burying his body in the garden and living off his pension for 12 years was jailed on Wednesday.
Barbara Coombes, 63, said a ‘black cloud’ appeared above her head in 2006 when she found photos taken by her 87-year-old war veteran father Kenneth, showing herself as a baby and another child naked.
Fearing her ‘bullying’ father had subjected the child to the same sexual abuse she claimed to have suffered for 40 years, she struck him across the back of the head and then slit his throat.
She wrapped him in a carpet as he bled to death and ordered a ton of soil before burying his body in the back garden of their home in Reddish, Stockport.
Coombes told her family her father had died of natural causes and hadn’t wanted a funeral. She continued living in his council house, falsely claiming benefits totalling more than £189 000 (about R2.5 million).
A council worker grew suspicious after trying to visit Mr Coombes – who would by then have been approaching 100 years old – to offer him a "winter welfare" check, only to be repeatedly fobbed off. With the "net tightening", Coombes went into a police station and told officers: "I murdered my father 12 years ago." She pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, having previously admitted failure to provide a lawful burial, deception and fraud.
Sentencing Coombes to nine years, Judge Timothy King said he did not accept she acted in self-defence. However, he accepted she killed while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression as a result of "40 years of extreme mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of your father".
Coombes told Manchester Crown Court that her father had treated her as his "sex slave" from the age of five, even allowing other men to take pictures of her naked, as well as being violent and controlling towards her.
It is possible that during "hundreds" of rapes inflicted on his daughter, Mr Coombes fathered a baby boy named David who died of brain damage aged three days, the court heard. Coombes’s parents split up in the 1970s and she moved out, along with her mother Mary and two brothers.
But after an ill-fated marriage to bricklayer Bill Coombes – who took her surname – and the death from cancer of her mother, she moved back in with her father, along with her daughter, after he let her live there rent-free.
Mr Coombes, who served as a bombardier with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, was described as "domineering" and "difficult" by relatives. His daughter claimed he continued to molest her despite his advancing years and forced her to do chores.
It was when she took a break from working in the garden in January 2006 to have a cup of tea that she discovered the indecent photos, she told police.
"I could feel a black cloud over me, I was confused and not thinking clearly," she said. "I picked up a shovel and walked into the living room. I struck him to the back of his head. I struck again, he fell to the floor. I rolled him in a carpet and dragged his body outside. I covered my father in soil." When her 16-year-old daughter Islay came home, Coombes said he had died suddenly and been taken away for cremation as he "didn’t want a fuss".
Senior investigating officer Duncan Thorpe, of Greater Manchester Police, said Coombes had come forward only when she had ‘no other choice’, adding: "She showed absolutely no concern for what she had done and denied everyone the chance to say goodbye, as Kenneth lay buried at the bottom of his own garden, just metres from her own bedroom window."
* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535 .