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Daily Record
Daily Record
Anita Merritt & John-Paul Clark

Married couple found dead at home after agreeing tragic suicide pact

A married couple were discovered dead together with their pet dogs after they agreed to a suicide pact, an inquest heard.

A family member who became concerned for their welfare went to check on them but tragically found Cassie Collins, 35, and Francis Collins, 36, dead.

The pair had lived in west Wales but Francis was jailed for lobbing homemade firebombs onto a neighbour's drive and they relocated to Devon in late 2020. The inquest into their deaths, held at Exeter’s Coroners Court, heard how they had a very close relationship, DevonLive reports.

On September 11, the pair were found dead at their home in Station Road, Cullompton.

In the period leading up to the tragedy, the couple seemed to have been preparing, including creating a joint will, sending letters and emails, and having two of their dogs put to sleep.

The coroner heard that after the launch of a fresh police probe against Francis, the couple were said to have been worried about losing everything.

Cassie endured years of living in chronic pain due to knee and shoulder injuries that left her unable to work and often bedbound.

She was said to be under the care of a pain management team and told her physiotherapist she felt "trapped in a cage".

Cassie had been sent to NHS service Talkworks and was discharged in August 2021 after stating that she did not have any suicidal plans.

She enjoyed knitting, crochet, spending time with her nephews and the company of her dogs.

Francis, who was born in Hereford, was said to have been diagnosed with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while living in the USA and had a long history of depression and anxiety.

The inquest heard that he had previously made an attempt to end his life.

He was assessed by Talkworks in May 2021 for severe psychotic depression and daily suicidal thoughts and this led to him being urgently referred to the NHS mental health team.

Francis had told them how when he was 10 that his own father ended his life.

He was noted to be suffering from ongoing back pain, financial stress and was worried about the ongoing police investigation.

He was then put under the care of the community mental health team and was awaiting an ADHD assessment at the time of his death.

Cassie's mum Deborah Coombes explained how her daughter and Francis had begun living together in Exeter and then moved to Chelmsford where Cassie did her nurse training.

However, just weeks before she was due to finish she caused further damage to an existing knee injury while exercising.

Then, after moving to Thailand the couple were involved in a moped accident and both injured their backs.

Deborah said: "Since then is when her really significant pain started. She spent most of her time in bed in agony. She described it as like rubbing sand into a cut all the time."

She added: "She regularly rang in tears about being unable to cope with the pain."

The couple then moved to Wales but next relocated to be with Cassie's family before Christmas 2020 after Francis had served eight months in prison.

Deborah said she had been aware Cassie had struggled with suicidal thoughts but hoped she would not act on them.

She said it was her belief that the culmination of pain she was in, their "troubles" in Wales and the latest police investigation had led to her death.

Mrs Coombes said: "I can 100 per cent say Francis wouldn't have killed her. They were devoted and soulmates and he said if anything happened to Cassie he would kill himself as she was everything to him."

The inquest heard that in the lead-up to their deaths, the couple had carried out a number of pre-planned actions including creating a joint will, sending letters and emails, and having two of their dogs put to sleep.

Cassie's sister Jodie told in a statement read out during the inquest how her sister and Francis had spoken in the past of wanting to kill themselves.

She then received a letter through the post from Cassie on September 11, 2021, in which she apologised for being unable to cope with the pain she was in anymore.

Cassie was discovered lifeless in her bed cuddling three of their dogs - a chihuahua and two miniature pinschers - who were also deceased, while Francis was found passed away in the hallway.

Jodie said: "Cassie had said a couple of years ago that if there were going to kill themselves they would kill the dogs as well as they wouldn't want anyone else looking after them."

Jodie said Cassie had previously spoken about not being able to live with the pain she was in and that the pending police investigation had left the couple 'really low'.

She said: "I think this was the tipping point."

A post-mortem examination stated the cause of Cassie’s death was the combined toxic effects of fentanyl and alprazolam. The cause of Francis’s death was asphyxia due to hanging. He was also found to have taken a substantial about of alprazolam which was '"likely" to have caused intoxication.

A police probe concluded that there was no third-party involvement or suspicious circumstances surrounding their deaths.

During a search of their home, a video of Cassie - dated September 8 - was recovered stating she was going to take her own life and that she would not be in pain anymore. End of life notes were also found in the property.

Recording a conclusion of suicide for both deaths, Alison Longhorn, area coronerer, said: "I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, both Cassie and Francis have taken their own lives and intended to do so."

Addressing their family, she said: "This is particularly tragic circumstances and I can't imagine how it has been to deal with the loss of not one but of both of them."

DevonLive reported in 2021 how Francis, a former paratrooper, had moved from his eco smallholding to Devon for a fresh start after the fire bombing attack.

Swansea Crown Court heard about the fued over a rural plot of land escalated into a campaign of "sinister" threatening emails that somehow ended with a firebomb attack.

Francis had pleaded guilty to stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress on the day he was due to stand trial.

The court heard he has six previous convictions for six offences. Francis had spent 202 days in prison on remand and then 46 days on an electronically monitored tag prior to his trial date, and the recorder said he intended to impose a sentence which meant he would be released imminently. Giving him a 10 per cent discount for his guilty plea recorder Mills sentenced him to 425 days in prison

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