Shock at former headteacher's death

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The Independent Online

Parents of boys taught by a former headteacher found murdered alongside his wife spoke of their shock at the deaths today.

The couple, named locally as Barry Dighton and wife Elizabeth, were stabbed to death inside their maisonette in Campden Road, South Croydon, yesterday. They are believed to have been in their 50s or 60s.

Their 34-year-old son, named by neighbours as Danny, was arrested at the scene and taken to a south London police station. Post-mortem examinations are being carried out at a Croydon mortuary.

Mr Dighton retired as headteacher of Elmhurst School, an independent boys' school in Croydon, about three years ago.

One neighbour whose son was taught there said the Dightons' son was working as a classroom assistant at the school until the end of last term.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said: "The Dightons had a big house somewhere outside London, but moved here to be closer to their son.

"Apparently he had been offered a job in Thailand as a foreign language teacher, and it fell through. He had already resigned from Elmhurst."

A fellow neighbour, whose son was taught cricket by Mr Dighton, added: "He was a really perfect man with a great sense of humour. The kids loved him.

"Dighton was Elmhurst School."

The man said Mr Dighton continued coaching cricket, with his son, after his retirement.

He said the circumstances of their deaths were "unbelievable", and added: "No one would have expected them to be murdered. They were lovely.

"He was an excellent head. The boys loved him. Their son was loved by a lot of the kids."

Another man who lives in the street said he realised something was wrong yesterday afternoon when he saw police officers running past a neighbour's window.

The man, who did not want to be named, said: "At first, we could just see two police cars but shortly after they were everywhere, with cars, vans and three ambulances and an air ambulance.

"I saw a man with dark hair, aged in his 30s being lead out in handcuffs.

"I wasn't close enough to see but another neighbour said he had blood on his hands and feet and he was trembling."

Teachers and parents hugged each other tearfully outside the gates of Elmhurst School as children left at the end of the school day.

Many parents were too upset to say anything as they collected pupils from the primary school.

Niranjan Patel, 52, whose 13-year-old son attended the school, visited staff to speak to them about the tragedy.

Mrs Patel broke down in tears as she said: "I don't believe this. He was a very nice man. He was a good teacher to my son."

Asked how staff were taking the news, she said: "Very badly. I can't believe his son has been arrested. I knew him to say hello to."

Charles South, senior bursar of Elmhurst School, chatted to community support officers posted outside the building as children were collected.

Friends of the Dightons' son spoke of their surprise at yesterday's events.

Julie Lowe, landlady of The Folly pub, said: "He's just a really nice guy and it was a big shock. He comes in here most days."

Adrian Cope, 27, said: "He'd just come back from Thailand. I just heard the job didn't work out. It wasn't what he expected.

"I think he was under the impression he would be teaching English kids, rather than Thai kids. He came back about a month ago, and he was fine."