Man killed partner on Norfolk Broads barge before drowning himself

John Didier strangled Annette Creegan and then spent a week on board a river cruiser with her daughter before killing himself

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The Independent Online

An NHS worker killed his partner in a planned attack then spent a week on board a river cruiser with her daughter before drowning himself, an inquest has heard.

The body of hospice nurse Annette Creegan, 49, was found naked, strangled and weighted down in the River Bure on the Norfolk Broads last September following a major police search.

The body of her partner, John Didier, 41, was found nearby and evidence suggests he drowned himself by tying dumbbells to his limbs and jumping overboard, the inquest at Norwich Coroner's Court heard.

A search was launched after a river worker alerted police on September 1 to the discovery of Ms Creegan's 13-year-old daughter alone on a boat moored near isolated Salhouse Broad.

When she was interviewed, the girl said they had arrived for a holiday on the Broads on August 25 and the following day she woke to find her mother was not there.

Detective Constable Christina Stone told the inquest: “They had moored the boat at about 5.30pm on the Friday.

”The following day she woke up and Mr Didier told her that Annette had left.

“She had no access to a mobile telephone and no means of getting off the boat so stayed there over the following days.

”Six days later she woke up and there was no sign of Mr Didier and she was rescued by a passing Broads ranger.“

Ms Creegan's elderly mother and two brothers attended the inquest along with Mr Didier's brother and sister-in-law who travelled from his homeland in the US.

The inquest heard Mr Didier's body was found later on September 1.

He had drowned and was found immersed in water, weighted down with two 17.5kg dumbbells tied to his feet and two 15kg weights tied to his wrists, pathologist Ben Swift said.

Ms Creegan's body was found in the water nearby the following afternoon.

Mr Swift said she was naked and her hands had been tied behind her knees with cable ties. She was weighted down with a 30kg dumbbell and had been strangled.

The decomposed state of the body suggested she had been in the water for about a week.

Bruises to her fists suggested she had tried to fight off Mr Didier but there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Reliving the moment he found the girl alone, Broads Authority ranger Andrew Ellson said he noticed the boat moored in the secluded spot several days earlier. He was returning from a routine patrol when he decided to approach it.

He said: ”The curtains were closed and the motor was running. I knocked on the side of the boat and the window opened. I saw a young girl who told me she was by herself.“

Detective Inspector Gary Bloomfield said a thorough investigation was carried out.

He added: ”I'm confident in saying John Didier had killed Annette and then taken his own life a number of days later.

“It seems he had in some way planned the events of that week.

”There was no evidence he was mentally impaired and it was a deliberate decision to kill Annette then drown himself.“

Outside the inquest, he added that officers had found no evidence of any tension in the relationship and Mr Didier's motive remained unclear.

On the night of her mother's death, the girl slept undisturbed and did not hear any argument.

The boat was not locked but was surrounded by marsh and woodland with no footpaths so she felt unable to leave.

There was no evidence she or Mr Didier left the boat following Ms Creegan's death and no one else had been on board.

The family hired the Le Boat cruiser from nearby Horning and were familiar with the area from previous holidays. They had stocked up on food and the girl was fed throughout the week.

It is thought Mr Didier bought the weights and cable ties with the intention of murdering Ms Creegan before leaving Surrey, Mr Bloomfield said.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict that Ms Creegan died as a result of unlawful killing, probably on August 25.

He recorded a verdict that Mr Didier committed suicide on either August 31 or September 1.

He added: ”What a grotesque irony that this happened in the idyllic setting of the Norfolk Broads - what a contrast between the calm serenity of the waters and this dreadful tragedy.“

Ms Creegan, born in Balham, worked as a community nurse for the Trinity Hospice charity in Clapham Common, south-west London, while Mr Didier, originally from Kettering, Ohio, had worked in IT for the NHS but was unemployed at the time.

Afterwards, Mr Bloomfield said: ”I hope that today's inquest has answered some of the questions about what happened on Salhouse Broad and we continue to offer the family support at this difficult time.

“I would also like to offer my condolences to the family of John Didier.”

Both families declined to comment as they left the inquest.

The girl is being cared for by family.