The family of a mother murdered by a drug baron fresh from prison say he was a “coward” for taking his own life.
Serena Orange, 42, was found dead in a hotel room after being strangled by Darren Ellis, an inquest heard today.
Mr Ellis confessed his crime to sister Joanne Holland before fleeing towards his hometown of Nuneaton to throw himself under a train.
The pair, who had been in a “casual relationship” for a few months, went to a Premier Inn with friends to take cocaine and carry on drinking after a nearby wedding reception.
It was then, police believe, there was “some disagreement” between the couple.
Speaking after the inquest, Natalia Adams, who had been friends with Serena for 15 years, said: “Darren Ellis was a coward. It wasn’t guilt - he couldn’t face going back to prison.
“Serena misjudged him. He said all the right things, but she hadn’t fallen for him.
“I think she hoped that he would be the man he kept saying he was.”
Mr Ellis was jailed for six years for drugs offences in 2011, but served the second half of his sentence on license. Giving evidence at Ampthill’s Coroner’s Court today, Warkwickshire probation boss Les King said a review of the murder-suicide case had been carried out.
Despite there being no failings that could have prevented Serena’s death, Mr King said checks had not flagged up Mr Ellis’ past convictions of common assault.
He said: “With hindsight you can do many things, but we had no knowledge of his relationship with Serena.”
He added that it should have been possible to instruct Mr Ellis to notify the company of any new relationships.
Today, mum Berita Schallop joined Ms Adams in paying tribute to Serena who leaves a “huge void in her wake”.
Mrs Schallop said: “Serena was a strong woman. She was a devoted mum, daughter and friend. She was my only daughter. “Any mother would feel anger after what has happened.”
Ms Adams added: “I loved her energy, her kindness and her love for life and food - she was a tiny size eight and she ate much more than I did.
“When I think about her I feel energy. Serena was always on the move - she didn’t stop - cleaning, cooking, washing the car, mowing the lawn, painting the fence.
“We need to try and move forward, but it’s harder, in a way now, because there has always been something to focus on.
“Now there is nothing left.”
Senior coroner Tom Osborne delivered a verdict of compression of the neck.
He said: “There is no doubt Serena died as a result of being strangled. Therefore the only conclusion that I can reach is that she was unlawfully killed.
“I acknowledge and recognise the devastating effect on the family of Serena.
“I am sure you have many happy memories of her and I would urge you to remember Serena like this, rather than dwelling on the circumstances of her death.”