London, August 21: A former policeman drove his car off a 350ft cliff at high speed in a suicide pact with his estranged wife, it emerged yesterday.
Father-of-four Paul Charles and wife Jacqueline were killed instantly when their car crashed through a barbed wire fence and plummeted on to jagged rocks at an Isle of Wight beauty spot.
He is understood to have become depressed after the breakdown of his five-year relationship and legal issues surrounding some of his children, aged 11 to 24, from one of his two previous marriages.
Four weeks ago, he moved out of the flat he shared with his 48-year-old wife, who also had two children from a previous relationship, in the resort of Ryde to a terraced house in Sandown with his daughter aged 12.
A neighbour said Mrs Charles had suffered mental health problems, and had tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion.
The couple were seen sitting in a Renault Scenic in a National Trust car park at Culver Down on Wednesday evening. At about 8pm witnesses saw the car suddenly start ‘gunning down' the hill before shooting over the cliff edge.
Yesterday the car's mangled wreckage was winched from the rocks by RAF Chinook helicopter.
Last night, the family of Mr Charles, 53, paid tribute to a ‘loving father, son and brother who will be dearly missed'.
Through tears, his mother Sylvia Charles, 74, said: ‘He had been through a lot but seemed to have been a lot happier recently.
He had even just booked a holiday with his youngest daughter.
She added: ‘He had three heart attacks so had to retire from the Met Police. He moved to the Isle of Wight to look after me after the death of his father 17 years ago.
‘He was very unhappy in his marriage with Jacqui and he had seemed a lot happier after they split up.
‘The police have told me that they have found a suicide note at his house and at Jacqui's house, but we don't know what it said as they won't tell us yet.'
A former friend of Mr Charles said that she understood that his second wife – the mother of his four children – had tragically died.
The friend, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘He wasn't violent. He wasn't necessarily a ladies' man, but he was quite charming. I'm surprised about this. It's completely out of character.'
Last night a neighbour of Mrs Charles, a former legal secretary with two children, said she had been in a ‘fragile state of mind'.
Lauren Woodman, 25, said: ‘She and Paul were going through a break-up. She would tell me she wanted to end it all because she loved him so much. So part of me wasn't shocked when I heard.
'I'm more shocked about Paul. They were both very passionate about each other. It was a volatile relationship.'