A devoted husband attempted to commit suicide in a pact with his wife to end her long-term suffering from a depressive illness and ensure he did not go to jail for abetting her death.

An inquest heard today that Kenneth and Helen Brown took a cocktail of drugs and attempted to gas themselves in November last year. They left signs on the door of their home warning of fumes and not to enter the property until the emergency services arrived.

The pair also wrote suicide letters and left a message on the work answerphone of their daughter-in-law.

When emergency services were called, Mr Brown was found in a dazed condition and his wife was laid in the bath with a duvet covering her. A post-mortem examination revealed she died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Kenneth Brown, who lives in Portsmouth, suffered several injuries during the suicide attempt and was arrested and interviewed but later released without charge.

Detective Sergeant Glyn White of Hampshire Police said: "This does appear to be a genuine suicide pact with both parties being willing participants.

"The whole family are now relieved that Helen's suffering is ended and Kenneth is freed from the burden of his wife's suffering."

Kenneth Brown had been the primary carer for his wife, who was left housebound and reliant on him as she battled with a long-term depressive illness, constant nausea and anxiety and nystagmus, a disorder that causes involuntary eye movements.

The inquest on Monday heard that Helen Brown, 71, from Hampshire, had made several attempts to commit suicide in the last three years. Detective Sergeant White told the inquest that on one occasion, Brown had sat with his wife for 40 minutes following a suicide attempt before calling an ambulance.

The couple then began to discuss committing suicide together because Kenneth did not want to go to prison for abetting his wife's suicide.

The inquest also heard that the couple visited known suicide spots but decided not to carry out the act because of the potential impact on other people.

The inquest recorded a verdict that Helen Brown died as a willing participant in a suicide pact.