Woman admits murdering parents after poisoning father and stabbing mother

Woman admits murdering parents after ‘poisoning father and stabbing mother’

A woman has pleaded guilty to the murder of her parents after “confessing to poisoning her father with prescription medication and stabbing her mother”.

Virginia McCullough, 36, appeared by prison video-link before Chelmsford Crown Court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to the murders of John and Lois McCullough, who were both aged in their 70s.

The defendant, of Pump Hill, Chelmsford, Essex, admitted killing the pair between June 17 2019 and June 20 2019.

McCullough told Essex Police she killed her parents at their home in Pump Hill at some stage in the summer of 2019, then concealed their bodies within the property and continued to live at the address, the force said.

To cover her tracks, she told persistent lies about their whereabouts, frequently telling doctors and relatives her parents were unwell, on holiday or away on lengthy trips, Essex Police added.

Her actions were uncovered after her parents’ GPs raised concerns over missed appointments in 2023 and police executed a warrant at the Pump Hill address on September 15 2023.

In the moments afterwards, she confessed to poisoning her father with prescription medication and stabbing her mother shortly afterwards, the force added.

McCullough, who wore a grey top when she appeared in court via video-link on Thursday, spoke to confirm her name, to enter pleas of guilty to both counts and say she understood the judge’s comments.

Judge Christopher Morgan said: “You will understand that there is a single sentence that can be passed upon you in these circumstances. Consideration however has to be given to the minimum term.”

An inquest into the death of Lois McCullough, 75, previously heard she died of stab wounds to the chest.

Essex area coroner Michelle Brown said in October last year that Lois McCullough’s provisional cause of death was “stab wounds to the chest”.

She said “human remains believed to be” 74-year-old John McCullough were found at the same location.

His provisional cause of death was “pending further investigation”, Ms Brown said.

Inquests into their deaths were opened and adjourned.

Detective Inspector Lydia George, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “At the heart of this investigation are John and Lois – and their whole family.

“Virginia’s actions have had a significant and emotional impact on the family group and our thoughts today are first and foremost with them.

“We have worked very closely with them and supported them from the outset as we established the circumstances around John and Lois’ deaths and gathered the evidence which has led to today’s guilty pleas.”

Ms George added: “Clearly this was a hugely complex investigation from the outset.

“Officers were met with an incredibly challenging scene and worked at the address over the course of several days to carry out forensic enquiries.

“This involved expertise and insight from several teams across the force and it is thanks to the work of dozens of dedicated officers and staff that we were able to bring this tragic case to court and, now, a satisfactory conviction.”

Locals living around Pump Hill in September last year described McCullough as “quite chatty” and a “little bit odd”.

A worker at a nearby shop, who asked not to be named, said McCullough had told him her parents had moved to be by the seaside.

He said he had not seen them since before the Covid-19 pandemic, but that previously “I would see them two or three times per week”.

The worker said he did not really chat with her parents but they “seemed nice, normal people”.

“We were told they had moved to be beside the seaside,” he said, adding that it was McCullough who told him.

“We’re all shocked, we didn’t think she was capable of this.”

He said that McCullough would speak to workers in the local shops and buy them things.

“If anything she was just like a pest,” he said.

“She would be talking about the problems she had in the street.”

He said she was a “little bit odd sometimes”, adding: “She would come in and go ‘do you want a coffee’ then five minutes later there would be a coffee sitting there.”

He said she had told him she was pregnant, and he did not know whether to believe this.

Neighbour Phil Sargent said McCullough was “quite chatty” and “would always come and descend on you”.

“It would be a fair comment to say she was slightly irrational with her thinking,” he said.

“She didn’t appear to be a threat of any kind.”

He said McCullough “would buy you things, gifts and leave them outside your door – stuff from the Chinese takeaway, on a regular basis”.

“She would all of a sudden appear at 10pm and want to talk,” he said.

“If you were going out she would spot you and come out.

“You would get this story or other on what’s happening to her and her world, most of it was just made up.”

Another neighbour, who did not give his name, described McCullough as “pleasant”, “generous” and an “artist”, adding that he had not seen her parents for at least two years.

Neighbour Dave Oldershaw said McCullough had been “carrying on, going up to the Chinese (takeaway) like nothing has happened”.

He said he “thought she lived on her own” at the house, adding: “I only knew her to say hello to – she wasn’t trouble.”

McCullough will be sentenced on October 10 and 11.

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