A mystery over the deaths of a mother and son found among a cryptic arrangement of radios, clocks and chocolate cake may never be solved.
June and Stephen Corfield, 84 and 60, were discovered by a PCSO and housing authority boss who had entered their flat in Bracknell in January.
Around them were ten chocolate cakes and a handwritten note which read ‘Put memo at the top of the stairs do not come in’.
Every electrical item had been switched off or disconnected and there was no bedding or cleaning products inside.
Light fittings had been emptied of bulbs and the boiler and heating were unused.
In the bin was a newspaper dated December 2, 2019, despite the fact Mr Corfield was blind.
June and Stephen Corfield, 84 and 60, were found dead in a flat in Bracknell, Berkshire
The extraordinary scene, described as ‘very spartan’, was detailed at an inquest into his death at Reading Coroner’s Court.
Police had initially believed they could have been looking at a murder-suicide, but eventually ruled out any foul play.
Detective Sergeant Liam Butler, of Maidenhead CID, told the hearing ‘All the electrical items were unplugged and the main electrical fuse box was turned to the off position. The light fittings did not have light bulbs in.
‘There was not anything in the address that we would all recognise as items we would all use in our day-to-day living, such as working TV, internet connection, phones. It seemed very sparse.
‘As you entered the lounge where you had the two sofas, officers found a female sat in one of the chairs, slouched backwards. To her right they saw a male, again slouched back in the chair with his head tilted forward but to his left hand side. Both plainly had been dead for some time.
‘In between the two chairs were two Bush DAB radios and on the floor next to June’s chair, was a handwritten note.
The pair were surrounded by radios, clocks as well as a total of ten chocolate cakes.
‘At the foot of June’s chair was an empty bottle, believed to be a water bottle. At the foot of Stephen’s chair was a half-empty bottle containing clear liquid.’
Both bottles were tested and were found to contain a neutral, water-based liquid, the inquest heard. The note was filled with words, with some crossed out, but a section mentioned putting a message saying ‘do not come in’ at the top of the stairs.
A handbag was found which contained documentation identifying the pair as well as £1,000 in cash in Mr Corfield’s trousers.
Charlotte Rolfe, a representative of Silva Homes, which managed the block of flats, said she had identified Mrs Corfield’s body after carrying out a welfare check with a local PCSO, because workmen had complained about being unable to access the flat.
She said: ‘I got a locksmith to gain entry to the address.
‘In the living room, I immediately saw the body of a male and female sat on the sofa in the living room.
The mysterious case was heard in Reading Coroner’s Court by assistant coroner Alan Blake
‘Both appeared very gaunt, their eyes were sunken and they were clearly deceased. We were inside for no longer than about 30 seconds.
‘I never met Stephen as he would always be away in his room whenever I attended.’
As the only existing documentation which pictured Stephen Corfield was a passport from 1998, police had to locate Mrs Corfield’s ex-husband and other son, Malcolm Corfield senior and junior, to identify Stephen through DNA.
Both men told how Mrs Corfield had not seen her former husband in around 30 years and had been estranged from her other son for about 15 years.
Dr Robert Chapman, who carried out post mortem examinations, gave the cause of death for Mrs Corfield, who was 5ft tall and weighed just 33 kilograms (five stone) when she died, as pneumonia and coronary heart disease.
The pathologist said that while he discovered a small tumour in Stephen Corfield’s brain, his cause of death remained unascertained.
Alan Blake, assistant coroner for Berkshire, said he believed Mrs Corfield had died first but had to record an open verdict on her son.
He added: ‘June Corfield and Stephen Corfield lived a reclusive lifestyle, they had had no contact with family members for some years and were hardly known to their neighbours.
‘The level of decomposition prevents the common sense inference that both had been dead for an appreciable period of time prior to when they were found. It is possible that June may have died first and that Stephen was subsequently unable to care for himself but I cannot make this as a finding of fact on the balance of probabilities. It is just one of a set of possibilities.
‘The police made open-minded and appropriate inquiries. There was no evidence of third-party involvement and very scant evidence which could point to suicide. The rather cryptic and hard to decipher note ending in ‘do not come in’ which was left would not permit such an inference and I do not make such a finding.
‘There is insufficient evidence to determine on the balance of probabilities whether this was an entirely natural death or whether there was an element of the unnatural about this death.
‘It cannot be established whether neglect or self-neglect caused or contributed to the death and accordingly I am required to reach an open conclusion in relation to Stephen Corfield.’