The heartbroken daughters of a much-loved woman who was killed by her husband at their home have told how she was “simply the best”.
Julie Connaughton was repeatedly struck to the head with a hammer by husband David Connaughton, 60, before he stabbed himself to death, a Chesterfield coroner’s court heard this month.
Her brave daughters Nicola and Emily Corless - from a previous relationship - have begun rebuilding their lives since the attack in August and have been comforted by an overwhelming number of tributes for their popular mum who lived on Walton Drive in Boythorpe, Chesterfield.
Emily, 29, said: “She was a loving and caring person who was really big-hearted and would do anything for anyone. She was like a friend and she would never judge us and always had a listening ear and let us live and learn.
“There are so many happy memories. Only two weeks before she lost her life we had a night out and she was the life and soul of the party. We carry on but we aren’t so much coping as surviving. Mum is always there in our minds and we miss her so much.”
Mrs Connaughton, aged 57, had lived in Matlock most of her life and had been secretary of the Peaks and Dales Darts and Dominoes League for 14 years after she took over the role from her father Samuel Buckley.
Julie used to run the Royal Oak pub at Tansley with her first husband Michael. She became well-known and well-loved across the region.
She moved to Chesterfield in the late 1980s and after working in fashion shops and retail she set up her business Julie’s Fashion House which changed to a printing business called Julie’s Printing House.
Julie played darts and dominoes for The Peacock Inn in Chesterfield where staff and regulars were devastated by her death.
She married David Connaughton about ten years ago. The couple lived with Emily as well as David’s son and their pets. Julie’s daughter Nicola, 34, said: “She loved animals and if she found a stray pet she would find the owner or end up keeping it.
“Our grandma and granddad competed in Derbyshire at darts and that’s where mum picked up the interest and she played for pub teams and became well known.”
Nicola added: “Every time that I smile, every time that I sigh, I think of mum’s face and a tear escapes my eye.
“I’m finding it very hard to go back to places where mum was involved or to remember the things she did.
“There are no words to describe how much we miss her. I wake up every morning thinking of her and when I’m going to bed I think of her. We had a calm period but when we went to the inquest it took me back to the beginning.
“We have a lot of respect for Det Con Tony Owen and Det Sgt Lesley Turner for helping us and for the coroner for explaining mum did not suffer.”
Nicola and Emily, of Chesterfield, said Julie always had a smile and got everyone to dance at functions. Emily said: “Tina Turner’s song Simply the Best was her favourite and it summed her up because she really was simply the best.”
Julie Connaughton’s daughters Nicola and Emily Corless have been comforted by their father Michael throughout their ordeal and have been inundated with tributes including the following:
Danny Oldale said: “She was known and respected by a wide circle of friends especially among the darts and dominoes’ community. Julie had a warm heart and was always smiling.”
Janet Smith said “Julie and I became friends when our first children were little. Julie helped set up Starkholmes Mother and Toddler Group and helped at fundraising events and we had many happy times.”
Kim Riley said: “She’d always sneak me chocolate and never fail to make me smile and she could brighten up anybody’s day.”
Abbie Riley said: “Such an amazing woman with a heart of gold.”
Davina Marik said: “She was known to many of us as ‘Auntie Julie’. She was a very kind, considerate and loving lady. Someone you could rely on and trust.”
Peaks and Dales Darts League spokesman Anne Hargreaves said: “She was very organised and efficient as a secretary and ensured the smooth running of competition nights. Julie will always be missed.”
Karen Frampton, of Chesterfield Darts League, said: “Julie was a special lady, a treasured friend who would do anything for anyone.”
The Red Lion pub, at Brimington, Chesterfield, said Julie was “a very special lady with a heart as big as a lion”.
Vicki Riley said: “Julie touched the hearts of many.”
Sue Adams said: “Julie was a lively lady and her door was always open.”
Jaye Moore said: “She was one of the kindest most honest people I have ever met.”
Danielle Far said: “Julie was like a second mum to me.”
Sheila Cannon and Sylvia Brailsford said Julie was a loving, happy, caring person.
Jess Broomhead said: “She would always stop - no matter what she was doing - to say hello.”
Sandra Clewett said: “Julie was a wonderful, kind and lovely lady who was taken away too soon.”
Emma Parker said: “Julie was an amazing woman. She was always there for me.”
Neighbours Kath and Melv said Julie was a lovely friend and it is very sad to have lost her.
Neighbour Sheila said Julie was a well-liked lady who was always smiling.
Victoria Pickering said: “We will never get over how you were taken from us in such a tragic way. We love you so much.”
Tim and Jenn Dann said Julie was a bubbly person whose warmth and caring nature shone through.