A depressed mother stabbed to death her two young daughters before turning the knife on herself because she mistakenly believed the eldest of the pair had cancer, an inquest today heard.
Marta Galikowska, 27, became convinced that her five-year-old daughter, Maja, was suffering from the disease after she discovered a lump under her jaw, the North Staffordshire hearing was told.
On October 12 last year, she fatally stabbed Maja and her 20-month-old daughter, Olga, at the family’s home on Sherwin Road in Stoke-on-Trent while her husband was out at work.
She then killed herself, North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court heard.
Galikowska’s husband, Marcin Galikowskin, 28, discovered the bodies of his wife and the girls after returning from his job as a binman to the semi-detached property at around 6.35pm.
He was initially arrested by police, but released without charge.
Today, the court heard how Galikowska had been prescribed antidepressants by a GP a week before her death after telling her husband that she wanted to kill herself and the children.
The case was referred to social services.
But after visiting Mrs Galikowska, originally from Przemysl, a city in south-east Poland, social workers said they did not have any immediate concerns about the children’s safety.
Mr Galikowski told the inquest his wife believed their daughters were going to be taken away by social services. A post-mortem later revealed she and the girls had all died from stab wounds.
Tests also revealed that the lump under Maja’s jaw was a benign cyst.
During today’s hearing, senior coroner for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, Ian Smith, told those present that the case was ‘the worst inquest, in emotional terms’ he has ever dealt with.
‘These were killings and suicide out of love – a perverse sort of love,’ Mr Smith said.
‘I accept in Marta’s mind she “knew” Maja had got cancer.’
‘She was completely wrong in that regard, but that was what she believed.
‘She didn’t want her daughter to die of cancer, and if she couldn’t prevent her daughter dying of cancer she would take her life.
‘She took Olga’s on the same occasion, and having committed that she felt she had no other alternative than to take her own life.’
Giving evidence at the hearing, Mr Galikowski said: ‘Marta got herself into a state and convinced herself it was cancer. She started to talk about killing herself and the children.
‘She talked about us all jumping off a bridge. I tried to reassure my wife and give her support.
‘I believed she was depressed so I took her to see a doctor.’
Speaking after the inquest, the bereaved father read out a statement paying tribute to his wife.
He said: ‘Marta was a fantastic wife and a loving mum who worshipped our daughters Maja and Olga. My wife was a very special person who lit up my life.
‘Maja and Olga were wonderful children whose smiles still shine brightly.’
Detective Inspector Andy Maxfield, from Staffordshire Police, said after the hearing: ‘This was a hardworking loving family with two beautiful kids.
Every part of the investigation led us to believe they had a loving mum.
‘This woman was clearly suffering from mental illness.’
Galikowska moved to Stoke-on-Trent with her husband in 2010.
The couple – who attended a Roman Catholic church in the area – are believed to have met around seven years ago after they both moved from Poland to the UK to look for work.
They married in 2008, shortly before the birth of their first daughter.
Mr Galikowski found work in a timber yard before becoming a binman.
Galikowska, meanwhile, had worked as a waitress and at clothes store TK Maxx before becoming a full-time mother.
Speaking at the time of the tragedy, neighbours told of their horror.
Matthew Houghton, 30, said: ‘My brother said he heard a woman screaming, that someone was being killed, so we ran up the street. There was a woman already on the phone to the police.
She was hysterical, saying they were all dead, that they’d all been stabbed.
‘She’d been in the house and seen it.’
Another neighbour said: ‘They adored little Maja. She was so pretty and lively so when they had another little girl everyone was pleased for them.
‘We used to see them in the street and they were perfect. The little girl had a beaming smile.
‘It is absolutely heartbreaking.’
Another resident said: ‘Marta kept herself to herself and they were a normal family. There are quite a few Polish people living in the area and I think they socialised with people living nearby.
‘After we heard what had happened, one of my neighbours said they remember hearing shouting coming from the house.
‘They said it sounded like a blazing row but that’s not necessarily unusual around here especially because there are a lot of families living close together.’
Maja was a pupil at St Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary School, just yards away from the family’s home.
The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide for Galikowska.
Maja and Olga were found to have been unlawfully killed by their mother.
The inquest also heard that a GP referral for Galikowska was not followed up for 48 hours.
A serious case review is now underway to see whether anything could have been done to save her and her two young daughters. The review is due to report its findings on December 18.