Sharon Elaine Harman: grieving family pays tribute to mother stabbed nearly 50 times by abusive husband

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Loved ones of Sharon Elaine Harman described her as a "soul of sunshine" who had been "stolen from us in the most brutal way possible."

A grieving family has paid tribute to a mother stabbed nearly 50 times by her abusive husband after a coroner ruled she was 'unlawfully killed'.

Neil Harman, 57, breached bail conditions to murder his wife Sharon Elaine Harman, 49, at their home during a "sustained attack" before taking his own life, an inquest heard.

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Coroner Andrew Cox returned a conclusion of 'unlawful killing' after a pathologist told the inquest her fatal injuries could only have been inflicted by a third party.

After the verdict, loved ones of the victim paid a moving tribute and described her as a "soul of sunshine" who had been "stolen from us in the most brutal way possible."

Mr Cox also outlined evidence from the two day hearing, which heard the victim, known to family and friends as Elaine, had reported her husband for an assault two days before her death.

Mr Harman was kept in custody overnight but was released on bail the following day with the condition to stay away from her. But the inquest heard he breached his bail conditions by turning up at the family home a day later to inflict 47 knife wounds on Elaine in the kitchen as she desperately tried to defend herself.

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These included 20 stab wounds to the neck, 18 to the chest with six of these in the back, two to the left arm, four to the right hand and three to the head.

He then turned the knife on himself, inflicting 33 stab wounds and took his own life on 6 August, 2021.

'Soul of sunshine'

Elaine's family said after the hearing: "Our family as we know it has been turned upside down since the loss of our Elaine. Elaine was so much to so many: Mother, Sister, Daughter and Aunty.

"We feel as though your soul of sunshine has been stolen from us in the most brutal way possible. This came as a massive shock to us as a family and we feel that she has been taken from us. We are all left with a massive void in our hearts that can never be replaced."

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Elaine Harman was described as a 'soul of sunshine'Elaine Harman was described as a 'soul of sunshine'
Elaine Harman was described as a 'soul of sunshine' | SWNS

Neighbours of the victim, who lived in Polperro, Cornwall, had told the inquest Mr Harman was 'controlling' and Elaine had made plans to leave him.

Devon and Cornwall Police officers told the inquest they felt there was nothing they could have done differently in regards the original allegation of assault to stop the tragedy from occurring. And Andrew Cox, coroner for Cornwall, said in his conclusion no-one could have foreseen the tragic events that unfolded.

He said it was "entirely appropriate" for Mr Harman to be arrested and detained and said bail conditions were "appropriately imposed."

He added: "This is not an unusual set of circumstances in a domestic violence situation, the actions taken here are entirely consistent with usual practice.

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"He was not released under investigation without any constraint on his liberty. Instead police bail standard conditions were imposed.

"Mr Harman was not previously known to police and had history of violence or breaching bail conditions. I accept there was no prospect of him being charged or remanded in custody."

Mr Cox also said police "did not have the power" to take away his door key, but in any event he wasn't able to use it anyway as Elaine had "bolted" the door.

Mr Cox said the risk assessment was "appropriately completed" and added: "Elaine herself happened to know her husband better than anyone else."

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He added that while she may have been at risk of further harm, she herself did not feel at risk of being killed.

He added: "I don't believe anyone could have anticipated the actions that were taken. Nothing else could have reasonably been done to avoid this outcome."

Mr Cox closed the inquest by offering his condolences to the victim's family.

He said: "I get to hear a lot of sad events but this is one of the saddest. Elaine did not deserve to suffer what happened to her that day. I am genuinely sorry for the events that have brought us together."

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He said as part of his powers to 'prevent future deaths' he would be writing to the policing minister to seek to address a "clear disconnect between best practice in domestic violence guidance and powers available to police."

He also accepted the findings of home office pathologist Dr Deborah Cook who said it was clear her injuries had been inflicted by a third party and gave the cause of death as stab wounds to the neck and chest.

An earlier inquest ruled Neil Harman had died as a result of suicide having stabbed himself 33 times during the same incident.

Murder victim Elaine HarmanMurder victim Elaine Harman
Murder victim Elaine Harman | SWNS

Paying further tribute after the inquest, the family said Elaine was someone who left behind a huge legacy.

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They added: "Elaine can only be best described as a kind-hearted bubbly ray of sunshine with a great sense of humour. Elaine was beautiful and intelligent with such ambition for the life ahead of her.

"The family cherish such deep memories and miss adventures with her, such as walking through the beautiful scenery taking photographs of the place she adored living in.

"Elaine was strong, brave and the most incredible role model. She leaves behind a legacy to always follow your dreams and listen to your heart.

"Elaine was the best version of herself to everyone in her life that she touched and will be missed with all our hearts. Elaine was a very sociable person who loved playing darts and going to rock concerts with her friends who nicknamed her ‘Rock Chick’.

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"Elaine, may you spread your wings and be at peace, we’ll love you forever – we hope you are reunited with Mum at peace together.

"The family would like to thank the Devon & Cornwall Police response and investigation team and a heartful thank you to the family liaison team and homicide support team that have supported the family through the worst time of our lives, we will be eternally grateful."

There are a number of charities you can access for support with domestic violence, including Refuge and Women's Aid. Women can also call the Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247 for free at any time, day or night. More info is available via the NHS.