Page last updated at 18:40 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 19:40 UK

Fugitive's suicide after murder

George Appleton
Police said George Appleton was a serious threat to women

A 40-year-old man who prowled dating websites in search of women killed himself after murdering his ex-girlfriend, an inquest heard.

George Appleton was found hanged in a derelict pub in Salford while on the run from Greater Manchester Police.

An inquest heard that he killed himself on 6 February - the same day the badly-burnt body of Clare Wood was found.

Bolton Coroner Jennifer Leeming ruled that Appleton, who was to be charged with murder, committed suicide.

Ms Wood, 36, who had a 10-year-old daughter, had been strangled and set on fire several days earlier.

Rape allegation

Det Sgt John Mulvihill told the inquest, at Bolton Coroner's Court, that Appleton's DNA was found at the scene and he had hinted to friends that he was the culprit.

"We believe that George Appleton committed suicide and that his state of mind was affected by the guilt of committing murder," he said.

An alarm was installed at Ms Wood's home after she made an allegation of attempted rape against Appleton.

Clare Wood
Clare Wood's home was fitted with a police alarm

A week before she died, he was given a harassment order for smashing down the front door of her home in St Simon Street, Salford.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is due to publish a report into police contact with Ms Wood.

Police said that Appleton was known to prowl online dating and social networking sites, including Facebook, looking for women.

During the manhunt, officers released a list of his favourite sites and computer usernames to urge women not to meet him.

His body was found almost a week after his death in a former pub on Boond Street, Salford, less than a mile from his home.

Coroner Jennifer Leeming said: "On the evidence before me I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that George Appleton took his own life."

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