A FATHER found dead alongside the bodies of his three young children had agreed to split up with his wife after she developed a "crush" on a university lecturer, an inquest has heard.
Ceri Fuller is said to have "understood" and talked over the split with his wife Ruth before leaving their home with their three children in July last year.
Mr Fuller, 35, Samuel, 12, Rebecca, eight, and seven-year-old Charlotte were found dead four days later in a disused quarry at Poles Coppice in Pontesbury Hill, Shropshire.
Post-mortem examinations found that all three children had suffered severe neck wounds thought to have been inflicted with a hunting knife.
Mr Fuller, a production line supervisor at a paper mill, was found dead at the foot of a 60ft cliff at the quarry with a fractured skull and other injuries consistent with a fall from height.
In a statement read to the inquest, Mrs Fuller's sister, Joanna Ballard, said she had been called to the couple's home in Milkwall, Gloucestershire, at about 6.30pm on July 12.
Mrs Ballard was told that her sister had tried to kill herself and found her in a "zoned out, edgy and anxious state".
In her statement, Mrs Ballard said an out-of-hours GP then visited to assess her sister, who had sent text message of a loving nature to her husband earlier that day.
The deputy coroner for Mid and North-West Shropshire, sitting in Wem, heard that Mrs Fuller had also sent "flirty" text messages to her tutor on a humanities course, Mark Lindley-Highfield.
In her statement, Mrs Ballard said: "She had told me that she had a romantic crush on Mark, but she saw it as a schoolgirl crush and had no intention to take it any further."
Mrs Fuller was taken to hospital in Gloucester at around 10.30pm on July 12, where she told her sister that she and Mr Fuller had not had a row, the inquest heard.
In a "rare moment of lucidity" Mrs Fuller then confirmed that she and her husband were splitting up, claiming that "they had talked and he understood," Mrs Ballard added.
In verbal evidence to the inquest, Mrs Ballard said that in the early hours of July 13, her sister stared into her eyes and told her: "I think that Ceri killed Rebecca."
Asked by the coroner to expand on her sister's claim to have a "crush" on her tutor, Mrs Ballard told the court: "It was a fleeting comment.
"We didn't talk in depth about it because I didn't think it was very important.
"She just mentioned a 'crush'."
Mrs Ballard agreed with the coroner that she had heard nothing to suggest that her sister was entering into a relationship with her tutor, who taught on an Open University course in Cheltenham.
In written evidence submitted to the inquest, Mr Lindley-Highfield said he had sent six texts to Mrs Fuller on July 11 and 12 last year, receiving five messages in reply.
In one of the texts, Mrs Fuller had referred to a mid-life crisis, prompting Mr Lindley-Highfield to remind her of the boundaries between a student and tutor.
The joint inquest into the deaths heard that a fingerprint matching Mr Fuller was found on a bloodstained Bowie-type knife recovered from the scene.
Pathologist Dr Alexander Kolar told the hearing all three children had suffered a "large incised wound" to the throat.
Samuel, Dr Kolar said, died from the effects of the single wound to his neck, while his sisters both died from multiple stab injuries, including wounds to the chest.
During harrowing evidence, Dr Kolar confirmed that Samuel and Rebecca had also suffered "defensive" injuries to their hands.
Rebecca had been stabbed five times in the chest, and her sister had suffered four chest wounds, the inquest was told.
At the time of the deaths, West Mercia Police said one line of inquiry was that Mr Fuller had killed his children before taking his own life.
Friends of Mr Fuller, a production line supervisor, told the inquest he was a reserved family man who went walking in the country with colleagues.
In a statement read to the court by Coroner Andrew Barkley, paper mill employee Alan Norton said Mr Fuller had appeared to be his normal self before he failed to attend work for a night shift on July 12.
"I didn't notice anything different about him from his usual self and I didn't notice any changes in his behaviour or personality," Mr Norton said.
Other statements from Mr Fuller's colleagues described him as a good listener who rarely instigated conversations.
Peter Morgan, whose statement was also read to the inquest, said: "I thought him to be a reserved type of person, very mild-mannered and softly-spoken.
"I am not aware of any reason as to why he may have taken his own life or that of his children."
The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.