Inspector may have planned more murders

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Policeman killer Garry Weddell may have planned to kill other members of his family, and inquest heard today.

The police inspector blasted his mother-in-law Traute Maxfield at her Hertfordshire home with a shotgun on January 11.

Detectives said that the following day, he may have been driving to another family address when he was disturbed by a police helicopter flying overhead.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil said Weddell believed her body had been discovered and changed course, driving to a shooting club where he took his own life.

Mr O'Neil said: "The investigation team believe that Garry Weddell was possibly en route to carry out another attack but had been worried about the helicopter overhead.

"We believe he intended to finish the day with the taking of his own life.

"We believe that he killed Traute Maxfield but the route he had taken was a natural drive to the Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard area.

"It is our belief he intended to kill other family members. But because of the helicopter we believe he thought we were aware of he presence and he panicked."

Bedford and Luton Coroner David Morris was holding inquests into the deaths of Weddell, his 44-year-old wife Sandra and mother-in-law Mrs Maxfield.

Weddell, 47, was waiting to go on trial accused of strangling his wife and faking her suicide when the shootings took place.

The case sparked controversy after it emerged that a senior judge released Weddell on bail despite the objections of prosecutors.

Earlier, the inquest heard how detectives suspected Weddell had staged his wife's suicide after experts found other injuries on her body.

Weddell told officers he found his wife dead in the garage of the couple's home.

A plastic cable tie was tightly bound around her neck and a suicide note was discovered nearby.

But a forensic pathologist found bruises on the 44-year-old's right fist, consistent with her hitting an attacker.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil said injuries indicating a scuffle and bruising on her upper arms were also found.

Sitting at Dunstable Magistrates' Court, the coroner heard how other evidence also raised suspicions.

A police computer expert found the suicide note had been printed out at the couple's home when Weddell was home alone on January 30, 2007.

Mrs Weddell was found dead in Lancot Avenue, Dunstable, later that day.

There were no fingerprints on the paper, but a linguistic expert said the "high standard" of language suggested Weddell wrote the note.

Several months later police charged him with his wife's murder.

But he was released on bail and went on to kill his mother-in-law and himself in January this year.

The inquest heard how Weddell used a shotgun stolen from a shooting club in Markyate, Hertfordshire, to kill Mrs Maxfield on 11 January.

Her body was discovered the next day at her home in Gustard Wood with fatal shotgun wounds hours after Weddell shot himself at the club.

Mr Morris ruled that Mrs Weddell and Mrs Maxfield were unlawfully killed by Weddell who then committed suicide. He said there was evidence that Weddellspent up to a month planning the murder of his mother-in-law and his own suicide.

The coroner said Weddell not only undertook clay pigeon shooting lessons but then stole a shotgun from the club for his use.

Mr Morris said he might write to the Government with observations on the safeguards controlling weapons held by gun clubs after reviewing the case.

He said he might also encourage the Government to review the restrictions on the judiciary when they consider bail applications.

A statement was read out by police after the inquest on behalf of Mrs Weddell's family.

It said: "It is impossible to describe the utter hurt and devastation the selfish coward has been able to cause to our family and his own children.

"We thank everyone who knew our unique and precious mother and sister for their continued support as we attempt to rebuild our lives and correct the injustices Sandra and Traute and their loved ones have suffered.

"We thank the members of the Major Crime Unit for the professionalism with which they have carried out their duties.

"At this time we would ask the media to respect our privacy and allow us to recover from these tragedies."

A spokeswoman for the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, added: "This was a difficult investigation and our thoughts are with the families involved at this time.

"We hope that they can now move on and continue with their bereavement process."