POLICE in the North believe that a man who was found dead in his car in a forest yesterday morning killed himself after beating his estranged wife to death.
According to local people, Mrs Sharon Hull, 33, the mother of three young children, had recently taken out a court order restraining her husband from approaching her or their former home.
The couple's three children were staying overnight with relatives when their mother was killed at around 5am yesterday.
She was found at the house in Carnbeg Meadows, a new development on the outskirts of Antrim town, close to the shores of Lough Neagh, at breakfast time yesterday.
It is believed that after killing Mrs Hull, her estranged husband Phillip Hull, 34, and an accountant, drove to Tardree Forest, six miles from the house. His car was found crashed into a tree.
The cause of his death is unclear but police were informed that he had told friends recently of his intention to take a drugs overdose.
Local people said yesterday that he telephoned members of his family, telling him that he had killed his wife and was about to kill himself.
A postman discovered the crashed car with Hull slumped over the wheel at around 7am.
Hull was described as a powerfully built, 6ft 2in member of Antrim Rugby Club. Local people said yesterday the couple had appeared "normal" and they were unaware that there had been an acrimonious separation. The couple had been married for 15 years.
Antrim councillor Adrian Watson, who said he had been stunned to learn of the events of yesterday morning, spoke of the shock of the apparent murder-suicide. He said he had known the couple for many years and had played rugby with Hull.
"I always found him to be a popular and decent man,'' he said.
He said he had been talking to him in recent weeks about the coming rugby season and had not had a clue that there was anything wrong.