Dead judge's lover wins second inquest...
Last updated at 22:17pm on 3rd November 2006
Judge Andrew Chubb died in a massive explosion.
For the past two days, Kerry Sparrow’s friends have been telling her to crack open the champagne.
After winning an extraordinary five-year legal battle this week, she has, after all, every reason to celebrate.
But though many emotions have been swirling around in Kerry’s mind, pride and joy are not among them.
For the one person with whom Kerry would wish to celebrate her victory is dead. Kerry’s lover, Andrew Chubb, died in a fireball in the garden shed at his £1million Somerset home in July 2001.
It’s for his sake that Kerry has waged a remorseless battle to reopen the inquest into the judge’s death in a bid to discover once and for all how precisely he met his end.
"I know he’d be proud of me," says Kerry, 37, quietly. "He's up there smiling down at me. I loved Andrew - I always will."
"And he deserved justice. He believed passionately in the law and was a stickler for rules. He would have been utterly disgusted at the way he was let down in death."
Andrew Chubb, 58, died in a massive explosion in his garden shed less than two hours after asking his wife of 33 years for a divorce so that he could be with Kerry.
The inquest, five months later, decided that Mr Chubb - an orderly man and meticulous in his attention to detail - allowed a spark from his sit-on lawnmower to ignite petrol cans stored neatly in the garage.
The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Kerry was horrified but was equally determined to fight the verdict and prove the police investigation was fatally flawed.
She may "only" have been Mr Chubb’s mistress, but, listening to her, there is not a scintilla of doubt that she truly adored Andrew.
Barely 5ft 2in and blonde, by her own admission she does not immediately come across as a hard-bitten courtroom scrapper.
But Kerry, a legal executive who has given up work to fight the case on Legal Aid, has backbone.
Her titanic battle has revealed a staggering catalogue of errors. Andrew’s body was released for cremation without a forensic post mortem.
Blood samples were not taken and his lungs were not examined, making it impossible to obtain a definitive cause of death.
Vital witnesses were not traced and the remains of the shed were bulldozed the day after the fire - at his widow’s request.
Last week in the High Court, it emerged that forensic samples were never taken from Andrew’s widow, Jennifer Chubb, a former nurse and Red Cross volunteer who has now moved to Australia after inheriting her husband’s £1million estate.
Nor were Jennifer’s clothes examined.
In May 2002, Mrs Chubb - who police have discovered was also having an affair - was arrested and interviewed under caution on suspicion of murder and perjury in connection with her evidence at the inquest.
The Crown Prosecution Service ruled that she should not be charged.
But this week, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, ordered a fresh inquest into Andrew’s mysterious death after Kerry employed her own experts to disprove the original verdict of accidental death.
"I’m exhausted but it’s all been worth it," says Kerry, who has been supported not just by her own family, but by Andrew’s sister, Rosemary, and brother, Nigel.
"At last we’ll know what really happened that night."
It was at a works drinks party in Exeter in 1996 that Kerry met Andrew, a prominent lawyer who had been a prosecutor in the Rosemary West trial.
"Andrew was warm, funny and sweet - a thoroughly nice man," recalls Kerry, fondly.
However, although they exchanged phone numbers, there was no hint of romance.
After all, he was more than 20 years older than her and a married father of three children, Tom, now 36, Charles, 33, and Harriet, 28.
Kerry was a single mother. Her daughter, Sabina, was then just seven. There wasn’t much time for romance.
Then, in August 1999, Andrew rang to say that he been made a judge and had set up a second home, a two-bedroom flat, in Portsmouth - some 30 miles from Kerry’s home.
"He invited me to dinner," she says. "It was supposed to be just two friends getting together - but we clicked instantly."
"Within a month they were lovers."
Naturally, Kerry was concerned about Andrew’s wife, but she is adamant that his marriage was dead.
"I always vowed I would never have a relationship with a married man, but he told me that he and Jennifer had not had a physical relationship for 20 years: they didn’t kiss, they didn’t even touch. He was embarrassed and tearful, and I never doubted him."
It’s tempting to wonder why, if the marriage was so loveless, Andrew hadn’t left his wife years before.
"He didn’t have the confidence," Kerry says. "He may have been a high-powered judge, witty and eloquent, but his self-esteem was at rock bottom."
Once with Kerry, however, he made no secret of their relationship during the time he spent with her in Hampshire. "We walked in the street hand in hand," she says. "Andrew always referred to me as his 'partner'. He’d have been mortifed that, since his death, I’ve been classed as the 'mistress' as though I’m some sort of scarlet woman."
"Andrew was incredibly romantic. He sent me the sweetest cards and e-mails. I’ve kept them all." "He called me 'my darling'. It was the most perfect love story."
Andrew returned to his sprawling 19th-century farmhouse in Leigh, near Chard, Somerset, most weekends.
But he and Kerry spent at least three nights a week together - and talked endlessly on the phone even when Andrew was in the same house as his wife.
"She was too uninterested in Andrew to be suspicious," says Kerry firmly. "We were happy as we were."
However, it seems that Andrew found it harder and harder to live a double life.
By 2001, he told Kerry that he would ask his wife for a divorce when his youngest daughter, Harriet, graduated from Edinburgh University that summer.
"It was a huge step and I made it clear that I didn’t want it to change anything," says Kerry.
"I didn’t want to put pressure on him to move in with me. He seemed relieved."
But on July 1, 2001, he decided to come clean with his wife. "He came to see me the next day," says Kerry.
"He said his wife was utterly cool with him. All she wanted to know was how much money he gave me. Her view seemed to be: I was younger than him, what else could I possibly see in him?"
"Then she told him that she’d known from their wedding day she didn’t love him. That was something he’d always suspected - and he knew she'd had at least two affairs, which crucified him."
"But it made him utterly determined to leave her. I think he was relieved it was out in the open."
Andrew spent one more week at home with his wife, which proved to be a disturbing experience - so much so that Andrew couldn’t bring himself to discuss it with Kerry in detail.
Andrew seemed particularly worried that his wife would discover a phone bill for £200 that he’d paid for Kerry - a rare gesture.
But, whether or not Andrew - who was barely 5ft 7in tall - was frightened of a further confrontation with his wife, he decided to return home a few weeks later, on Friday, July 27, 2001.
He was determined once again to ask for a divorce. Fatefully, he also promised Kerry he would bring her a lawnmower from his home.
Kerry and Andrew had spent the previous night together at her home.
They had made love and awoke, as usual, in each other’s arms.
"As he went downstairs I called out: 'Good luck'," recalls Kerry.
"He came back, gave me one last kiss and said: 'I love you so much.' That was the last time I saw him."
Andrew phoned her, as usual, several times that day.
In his last call he said: 'You know I adore you.'
Then he told Kerry he’d ring her before he went to bed as he always did. "That was 7pm," she says. "We never spoke again."
Less than two hours after walking through his front door in Somerset, Andrew Chubb was dead.
According to his wife and reports from the fire brigade and police, he told his wife that he wanted a divorce.
He then walked out of the house saying he wanted to mow the lawn - despite the fact that he employed a gardener who had cut the grass just two days earlier.
Some time later, Mrs Chubb went out to find him to prolong the discussion. Finding the doors of the flimsy wooden garden shed closed, she opened them and noticed Andrew preparing the sit-on lawnmower.
She apparently told Andrew she would agree to a divorce, but wanted him to sort out matters relating to the house rather than going back to Portsmouth and leaving it all to her.
She then returned to the house and prepared herself a meal. As she ate, she heard a "whoosh" and looked out of the window to see the shed "engulfed in flames."
She grabbed the phone and tried to call the police.
Although she later claimed she must have pressed the wrong button and had not got through, it is now clear from emergency services records that the line was connected but Mrs Chubb did not speak to the operator or ask for assistance.
The phone was later found thrown into the garden.
Mrs Chubb then screamed at the first person she saw, her neighbour’s boyfriend, to call the fire brigade.
Intriguingly, she told him that her husband had committed suicide - a conversation picked up by the emergency services through the open line on the phone lying nearby.
It was a statement Mrs Chubb flatly denied at the inquest - leading to her later arrest for perjury, although she was never charged.
In fact, Andrew apparently abhorred suicide so much he even refused to attend the funeral of a friend because he had abandoned his family by killing himself.
Meanwhile, at home in Hampshire, Kerry, was frantic with worry. "Andrew rang without fail every night before he went to bed," she says.
"When the call didn't come, I was sick with worry. I barely slept."
The following afternoon, Kerry could bear it no longer. She rang Andrew’s home. The call went unanswered.
Two minutes later her own phone rang.
Running to grab the receiver, she was convinced it was Andrew. Instead, it was a police officer, who coldly informed her that her lover was dead. "I collapsed," she says. "I was in utter shock. I had to be tranquillised."
The next day the police called for a statement and an officer coolly announced: "We will never know what caused the fire."
"I knew something was wrong," she says. "Common sense tells you that in a sudden death in extraordinary circumstances, police should investigate every possibility."
"I begged them, but I was sidelined. After all, I was just the mistress."
After his death, Kerry refused to make a claim on Andrew’s estate.
As a result she has been left with the most pathetic of mementoes: a shirt, a trunkload of letters, cards and e-mails, two photographs - and the lawnmower which he had promised to give her.
It was discovered on the lawn after his death, ready for him to transport.
"I will never part with it," she says. "It’s more precious than anything to me."