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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 05:49 GMT 06:49 UK
Mother taunted as sons killed
Young Boys
All four brothers died of carbon monoxide poisoning

A mother listened on the phone as her estranged husband killed himself and their four young children, an inquest has heard.

Farm labourer Keith Young, 38, drove his sons Joshua, seven, Thomas, six, Callum, five and Daniel, three to a beauty spot near Llangollen, North Wales, during an access visit.

He then gassed them by running a petrol lawnmower in the back of the family car.

As he did so, he rang his estranged wife Samantha Tolley, who listened in horror as the boys succumbed to the lethal fumes.

North East Wales coroner John Hughes recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on the four boys, and said Mr Young had taken his own life.

Mr Hughes said it was one of the most harrowing cases he had ever dealt with.

The inquest at Wrexham heard that Young and Ms Tolley had separated several months before the tragedy, following a long and stormy relationship.

Young had learned that Ms Tolley was pregnant with another man's baby just before the night of the deaths, on 27 March this year.

Samantha Tolley at court with family liaison officer
Samantha Tolley listened to her children dying
The inquest heard Ms Tolley rang Young on his mobile that night, after a relative told her he had threatened to kill the children.

Reading from a statement by Ms Tolley, the coroner said: "You called him and he answered the phone. Without even saying hello he said 'save your breath'.

"You asked where he was, and he said 'You don't need to know'."

Ms Tolley said she would call the police but Young said it was too late, they would never find him in time.

'Too late'

Then the inquest heard, he later called his estranged wife back with a chilling message.

Ms Tolley tried to convince him things could be sorted out if he returned home, but Young replied: "It's too late, you would have me arrested."

She listened in horror as Young told her their children were passing out.

The coroner said: "The boys were obviously petrified but there was nothing you could do.

"Then [Young] said...he was feeling sleepy. Then you heard Keith snoring or breathing heavily."

Miss Tolley then heard nothing for about 20 minutes as she screamed down the telephone in a desperate bid to wake her husband or the boys.

No suffering

Ms Tolley frantically called the police who traced the mobile phone call, and within hours the bodies were found in the fume-filled car at the Horseshoe Pass beauty spot.

A post mortem examination revealed the five died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The pathologist said the boys would not have suffered, as they would have become drowsy and fallen asleep.

Whilst the boys suffering has ended, their mother's torment continues on a daily basis and will do so for the rest of her life
Samantha Tolley's solicitor Sarah Lapsley
The court heard Ms Tolley had allowed her estranged husband virtually unrestricted access to their sons.

She regarded him as a good father and did not think he would harm the children in any way.

Speaking outside court, Ms Tolley's solicitor Sarah Lapsley said her client would never get over the tragedy.

She said: "The circumstances of this horrific crime were particularly tragic.

"Whilst the boys' suffering has ended, their mother's torment continues on a daily basis and will do so for the rest of her life."

Five die in gas-filled car
27 Mar 03  |  Wales
Mother's tribute to dead sons
28 Mar 03  |  Wales

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