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

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.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'