Inquest: Care home owners died holding hands

Jaswant Beeharry and Isabel Ibanez-Mahiques
Jaswant Beeharry and Isabel Ibanez-Mahiques

A husband and wife from Friday Bridge near Wisbech who owned two local care homes were discovered holding hands after committing suicide in their car.

Jaswant Beeharry (48) and Isabel Ibanez-Mahiques (54) died of carbon monoxide poisoning in June last year after igniting petrol poured around the interior of their black BMW.

The couple from Back Road, Friday Bridge owned Maria-Helena Care in Gedney Dawsmere, Lincolnshire and Terrington Lodge Care Home in Terrington St Clement. At an inquest held in Wisbech on Wednesday, coroner William Morris heard they had been in financial difficulties and had decided to close one of the homes just two days before their bodies were found on June 9.

They were discovered by local farm manager Ricky Dring on an isolated back road off Floods Ferry Road, Doddington. It is believed they had been there since at least the day before.

Mr Dring first saw the BMW on the afternoon of Friday, June 8. The windows had appeared to be steamed up and he said in a statement it was not unusual to see vehicles parked on the section of hardstanding next to the track which ran between two fields.

However, when the vehicle was still there the next day, Mr Dring looked closer. He saw that the steam was in fact smoke damage and he could see one person sat in the rear of the car, not moving.

When emergency services arrived, they found the couple dead in the back seat. An empty petrol can was in the front passenger footwell and a lighter was on the seat between Mr Beeharry and Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques.

A fire investigation determined that petrol had saturated the floor in the back of the car and the couple deliberately ignited the vapours. It created a flash fire which was very short lived, due to a lack of oxygen in the car.

Police officer DI Jon McAdam said: “The deceased were holding hands. There were no signs of distress, no signs of force. It was very clear they were at peace.”

A post mortem found extremely high levels of carboxyhaemoglobin in the blood of both Mr Beeharry and Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques. The carbon monoxide produced by the flash fire had bonded with the haemoglobin in the blood, stopping oxygen from getting around the body.

While Mr Beeharry had therapeutic levels of prescribed drugs in his system, Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques did not. There was no alcohol present in either person. They both died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The inquest also heard evidence from Lisa Farr, who managed Terrington Lodge and had worked with the couple for nine years. They had even nicknamed her ‘The Captain’. She said Mr Beeharry was depressed and he told her he was taking anti-depressants, adding it was “his turn for a breakdown”.

At a meeting on June 7 with Lincolnshire County Council, a resident’s relative called Maria-Helena to ask about the closure.

“It hadn’t been announced to residents yet,” said Mrs Farr. “It angered Isabel and upset Rishi (Jaswant).

“A meeting was planned for the next day to tell staff the home was closing down. All the staff attended but Rishi and Isabel didn’t arrive. I was furious that they didn’t come and had left me to talk to the staff.”

Mrs Farr’s efforts to contact the couple were unsuccessful and it was not until Saturday, June 9 that police contacted Terrington Lodge to say their bodies had been found.

Glen Garrod, director of social care for Lincolnshire County Council, gave a statement outlining the problems Mr Beeharry and Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques had been going through. In 2011, Maria-Helena was found to have some “safe-guarding issues” and they were not allowed to take on any more residents while the issues were dealt with.

During this time, Mr Beeharry said it took all their financial reserves to keep the home running. In a letter to the council on June 1, 2012, Mr Beeharry expressed concern over the future of the home and said a low number of referrals from the council, delays in payments and high running costs were having a big impact.

Just five days later, on June 6, Mr Beeharry wrote again to say they were closing Maria-Helena and they would be working with Social Services to relocate the 32 residents.

Following the deaths of Mr Beeharry and Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques, the home remained open for a short time before permanently closing on July 8.

Mr Morris concluded that Mr Beeharry and Mrs Ibanez-Mahiques killed themselves and added: “This has been a particularly sad case and I wish to express my sincere sympathies to the families.”