Duffield stabbings: Tributes to Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths

Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths Image copyright Family photos
Image caption The bodies of Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths were found by police on New Year’s Day

Friends of a man and woman stabbed to death in the early hours of New Year’s Day have paid tribute to “a wonderful mummy” and “a doting dad”.

Helen Hancock, 39, and partner Martin Griffiths, 48, were found by police in New Zealand Lane, Duffield, Derbyshire.

Rhys Hancock, 39, is accused of murdering his estranged wife and Mr Griffiths in the marital home.

A friend said Ms Hancock and Mr Griffiths celebrated the new year at her house and left at about 02:00 GMT.

Image caption Flowers have been left outside the house where the pair died

“She went home with Martin, and we all went to bed,” Hannah Ruggins told BBC Radio Derby.

“I put my phone on the next morning, I looked on Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture of Helen’s house.

“I showed the picture to my husband and I just said: ‘Something awful’s happened’.”

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Rhys Hancock is accused of killing his wife and her new partner

Ms Hancock, who had been using her maiden name Helen Almey, was a PE teacher at Fountains High School in Burton-upon-Trent.

Her best friend of 20 years, Diana McGrath, said she had been “loving life” in her last few months after previously going through a difficult time.

“It was a whole new lease of life for her within the last six months,” said Miss McGrath. “She just really started to pick herself back up again.”

She had climbed Mount Snowdon for the first time, with Mr Griffiths, only a few days before they both died.

Ms Hancock had also enjoyed the “best ever” Christmas Day with her children and the wider family at her sister’s house.

“Helen was like ‘we had an amazing Christmas’,” said Miss McGrath. “Everybody was together, all the grandchildren and everybody.”

She had two sons, aged three and nine, and a daughter aged four. They are being looked after by their maternal grandparents, who will be raising them with the help of Helen’s sister and brother-in-law.

Ms McGrath said they are “still really coming to terms” with losing their mother.

“Helen was such a lovely mum,” she said. “So caring and she just loved children so much. She had such a loving personality.”

A fundraising page she set up to assist with the children’s upbringing has already raised more than £22,000.

Image caption Katy Rees (left), photographed with Sarah Beecroft and Hannah Ruggins (right), said Mrs Hancock was a “lovely, bright, positive person”

Another friend, Katy Rees, said Mrs Hancock was “a wonderful mummy to her three beautiful children”, and “just a lovely, bright, positive person”.

Tori Yerbury met Mr Griffiths and his wife Claire through their children’s nursery in Mickleover, Derby.

She said the 48-year-old “was an absolutely brilliant dad” who was “passionate about his mountaineering”.

She said Mr Griffiths had separated from his wife Claire in October “but they were still very close”.

“They’d been together for 21 years, they had two beautiful children,” she said. “He also wished her a happy new year on New Year’s Eve.

“Claire only found out about Helen three days before they passed away, and it’s been an enormous shock for her, but she had had a chance to wish Martin well.”

Mrs Griffiths has asked for privacy and in a message said her “paramount priority is to protect her two young children”.

Mr Griffiths’s family said in a written message he was “a family man and a doting dad… a loving son, a loving brother and a special uncle”.

Image copyright Tori Yerbury
Image caption Tori Yerbury said Mr Griffiths and Mrs Griffiths were “still very close”

An online fundraiser for Mr Griffiths’s children has seen more than £2,000 of donations.

Mr Hancock attended a hearing at Derby Crown Court on Monday, but did not enter a plea.

The defendant, of Portland Street, Etwall, is next due in court on 28 February. Judge Nirmal Shant QC set a provisional trial date of 24 August.

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