Suffolk: Husband and wife die within hours of one another like “Shakespearean tragedy”

Judge Peter Fenn

Judge Peter Fenn - Credit: Archant

A RESPECTED judge and his wife died within hours of one another in what has been described as “almost Shakespearean in its tragedy”.

Maxine Fenn, who died just a day before her husband died of terminal cancer

Maxine Fenn, who died just a day before her husband died of terminal cancer - Credit: Archant

Judge Peter Fenn, 56, lost his three year battle with cancer on Friday, just hours after his wife of 13 years, Maxine, was found dead at their Ipswich home.

Cases at Ipswich Crown Court were halted yesterday while barristers, fellow judges, colleagues and court staff gathered to hear resident judge David Goodin describe Judge Fenn as “intelligent, dedicated, straightforward and respected”.

“In Maxine he had a wife who supported him through his judicial career and latterly through the gruelling illness he bore so bravely and for so long. As a couple they were dedicated to each other and shared a love of horses, dogs and travel.”

Judge Goodin said Mrs Fenn had borne Peter’s illness with “fortitude and dignity” and had given him constant love and support. “He passed away on Friday without knowing about her untimely death,” he said.

Barrister Martyn Levett, who was a close friend of Judge Fenn’s and had known him for 35 years, added: “In his final days I asked if there was anything he would like to change or whether there was ever a time he felt like giving up. “Never”, he said “I have done more than most. I have loved and been loved. I have good friends and my only wish is that I could spend more time with those who I will leave behind.

“By a cruel irony, almost Shakespearean in its tragedy, Maxine, ten years younger, predeceased him by no more than 24 hours in an untimely death herself. Peter died peacefully and did not know of Maxine’s death.”

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Police were called to their home in Dhobi Place at 8.40pm on Thursday evening and found the body of Mrs Fenn. They are not treating the death as suspicious.

Mrs Fenn, 46, was described by a close friend as being “mentally and physically exhausted” by her husband’s illness.

Carol Hipkin, chairman of the Colne Valley Riding Club where Mrs Fenn used to organise cross country events, said: “It was an incredible shock when I heard the news early on Friday morning.

“I keep replaying it in my mind. A couple of days prior she was making plans for various events that were coming up. I like to think her spirit left her body and was at her husband’s bedside when he died.”

She said after Judge Fenn was diagnosed with cancer, spending time with their five horses became Mrs Fenn’s “retreat”. “It has been such an ordeal for them. Peter was such a brave person and used to encourage her to spend time with her horses and escape for a while. He gave Maxine the confidence to go out and live her life. She was an incredible person, very bubbly and always ready to help if you could.”

She added that Mrs Fenn was an “incredibly capable rider” in cross country and show jumping.

An inquest into her death is likely to be opened and adjourned next week.

A police spokesperson said: “We received a call at 8.40pm on Thursday concerned about a person’s safety.

“When we entered the property in Dhobi Place, Ipswich, we found the body of a deceased woman. We are not treating the incident as suspicious.”

Judge Fenn is survived by brother Stephen and sister Deborah. Mrs Fenn is survived by brother Paul, sister Maria and her mother Helen.

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