Amy Appleton, 32, and 76-year-old Sandy Seagrave were both killed outside a house in Hazel Way, Crawley Down, on the morning of December 22, 2019.
After a six-week trial at Hove Crown Court, Daniel Appleton, 38, an engineer, of Hazel Way, Crawley Down, was found guilty of two counts of murder.
The court was told how Mr Appleton had been heard by neighbours shouting at his wife Amy before she left their house and was then attacked by him on their driveway.
Sandy was passing at the time and something caused her to cross the road to remonstrate with Mr Appleton. However, he didn’t listen and instead began hitting Sandy with her own walking stick.
He left her injured in the street, before using the walking stick to inflict further injuries to Amy.
Members of the public rushed to the aid of the two women but despite their best efforts, and those of emergency services attending the scene, both were sadly pronounced dead.
Mr Appleton, having locked himself out of the house, kicked the door open and returned inside. That was where he was found by police, having inflicted multiple life-threatening injuries to himself.
He was taken to hospital and put into an induced coma. Upon his recovery, he was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
Police investigating the matter spoke to a number of Mr Appleton’s friends and family who said he had been acting strangely in the period leading up to the incident. Witnesses at the scene described Mr Appleton’s behaviour as agitated, angry and like he was possessed.
Three psychiatric assessments considered Mr Appleton to have experienced a brief psychotic episode with hypomanic symptoms at the time of the killings.
The level of violence displayed was unusually extreme in this case. Samples of his hair and nail clippings later revealed minute traces of a psychoactive substance similar to LSD.
Mr Appleton accepted responsibility for the killings but throughout the trial maintained that he did not use drugs and believed that he had been passively exposed to drugs while on remand in prison, where he was located with known drug users. However, the jury determined that drug use was a factor in causing the psychotic episode which led to the deaths of the two victims.
Mr Appleton was convicted of murder by a unanimous jury on Tuesday, December 29. He has been remanded in custody for sentencing on January 25, 2021.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Friday of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said: “This was a violent and unprovoked attack which claimed the lives of two well-loved women, and our thoughts at this time are with the families of both Amy Appleton and Sandy Seagrave. This has been a highly-emotive and difficult case, but they have conducted themselves with bravery and dignity throughout.
“Mr Appleton turned on his wife that morning with no warning or cause, and attacked her on the driveway of their home. When Sandy confronted Mr Appleton in a bid to get him to stop, she too became a victim.
“I would like to thank everyone who supported the police investigation, including the witnesses who showed incredible bravery to help Amy and Sandy at the scene before emergency services arrived. Also to all the paramedics and police officers who attended and managed what was an extremely distressing scene.
“The members of the jury have shown exemplary commitment to this case, remaining diligent and attentive throughout and returning a verdict based on extensive and often harrowing evidence they have heard over a number of weeks.
“The police investigation has been complex and thorough, and we hope it has helped provide some answers for the families of Amy and Sandy.”
A statement released by Amy’s family following the verdict said: “It has now been a year since we lost our wonderful Amy. Never a day goes by that we don’t miss and think of our beautiful, kind, caring daughter, sister and step-sister.
“As time goes by it seems to get harder to understand how we lost her in such tragic circumstances and our family will struggle to move on.
“Amy will live on in our minds and in our hearts, and will always be missed by the many people, colleagues and school children that she knew and who loved her.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the police investigation team for their perseverance and hard work, together with Nicholas Corsellis and Kerry Broome, to get the justice that our Amy deserved.”
A tribute released by Amy’s family last December described her as ‘a strong, positive person who always smiled’.
It said: “She was a rock for her family, a rock for her friends and most of all a rock for herself. Amy always thought of others before herself.
“Amy led the life she was destined to fill, following her passions. Her school will be missing an incredible, dedicated teacher, she gave 110 per cent to her pupils. Her light will always shine in our lives but a hole has been left with broken hearts.”
A statement released by Sandy’s family following the verdict said: “Sandy was a lady of old-fashioned values who was a true character. She could be intensely private but would happily talk to anyone, and she would not turn away from a situation.
“She was very well known around Crawley Down walking her dog around the village. Even if people didn’t know her name they still knew her by sight. She had many friends among her lovely neighbours who were always willing to lend her a helping hand if it was needed.
“We, her family, miss her so much and find it so hard to understand how this tragic event occurred. It has left a hole in our lives as big as her personality, as I am sure it has the community of Crawley Down.
“It may be year since she was killed but the memory and pain we all felt then is still just as fresh today. Her tragic death is something that is almost impossible to come to terms with.”