'Quiet father' stabbed family to death as first COVID lockdown began

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3 min read
Tributes were left to the family after a house fire took hold at their home. (SWNS)
Tributes were left to the family after a house fire took hold at their home. (SWNS)

A "quiet" quantity surveyor stabbed his wife and daughter to death then set himself and their house on fire, with the reason behind it remaining a mystery, an inquest has heard.

Gary Walker killed Caroline Walker, 50, and 24-year-old Katie Walker at their family home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, shortly after the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed last year.

Caroline suffered 39 stab wounds in the attack and both women had defensive marks on their arms.

An inquest into their deaths has heard that the 57-year-old then fetched two bottles of flammable paintbrush cleaner from the shed and appeared to have doused himself and set the substance alight using a gas hob igniter.

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A fire engine at the scene in March last year. (Paul Davey/SWNS)
A fire engine at the scene in March last year. (SWNS)

Firefighters were called out at 12.30pm on 29 March and found Walker dead at the bottom of the stairs, his wife's body in the living room and their daughter's in an upstairs bedroom.

Hertfordshire’s senior coroner, Geoffrey Sullivan, described them as an "entirely normal and pleasant family", adding: “The reason for these tragic events remains a mystery.

“None of the evidence we have from family, work colleagues and neighbours provides any indication or explanation of why these tragic events occurred.”

The inquest heard Walker had a history of anxiety and was on medication after his condition got "triggered by the coronavirus pandemic".

But when another daughter, Sarah, who did not live at the home, went to visit on 28 March "everything seemed normal".

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A neighbour leaves flowers near the family's home. (SWNS)
A neighbour leaves flowers near the family's home. (SWNS)

The couple also had another child, Christopher, who did not live at the address either.

Caroline told Sarah that Walker was "very worried about catching the virus".

Sarah described him as a "quiet man", and was unaware he had any mental health issues. Her childhood was "happy" and her parents were in a "normal relationship", the inquest was told.

Detective Constable Jason Rice, of the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Major Crime Unit, said Walker "wasn't used to" having to work from home and the pandemic had a "major impact" on him.

Police launched a murder investigation. (SWNS)
Police launched a murder investigation. (SWNS)

"With regards to money, there’s some evidence that Mrs Walker had got herself into a degree of debt over the years, which had caused her some anxiety," DC Rice said.

"That was approximately £20,000 and she appeared to be keeping this from Mr Walker, who wasn’t aware."

But he added it was unclear if this had an effect on what happened.

Neighbour Peter Downer said when Caroline visited at about 10.30am on the day of their deaths she seemed "her usual self".

The coroner concluded Walker died by suicide and his wife and daughter were killed unlawfully.

He recorded Walker's cause of death as consistent with the effects of fire, while Caroline and Katie died from stab wounds to the chest.

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