Wilf and Vera Russell
Vera and Wilf Russell were married for 71 years. Stephanie Russel Welch/Facebook

A couple who were married for 71 years have died a few minutes apart. Wilf and Vera Russell passed away within four minutes of each other on Wednesday (29 March).

Wilf, 93, died at Magna Care Home in Wigston, four miles south of Leicester, at 6.50am. Four minutes later his wife Vera, 91, took her last breath three miles away at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, not knowing that her husband of 71 years had passed away.

Vera's health began to deteriorate after Wilf was diagnosed with dementia last year and stopped recognising her, according to their granddaughter Stephanie Welch.

She told the Leicester Mercury: "I think she was waiting for him to go. She was broken-hearted."

"I went to visit her at Leicester Royal Infirmary on the Sunday before and she opened her eyes and asked me where Wilf was," Welch said. "The last thing she said to me was, 'We're a right pair, aren't we?'"

Wilf and Vera met 75 years ago, when he was 18 and she 16. They got engaged before he left to join the RAF in North Africa during the Second World War. When he returned home, the couple married and lived in West Midlands where Wilf worked as an engineer. Ten years ago they moved to Oadby, a small town in Leicestershire, to be near to their son, Stephanie's father Peter.

They leave behind two sons, five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Welch said her grandparents had a very happy and loving marriage. "They had a lot in common and never spent a night apart throughout their entire marriage until Wilf had to move into the care home," she said.

A joint funeral will be held in the village of Great Glen, Leicestershire, to celebrate the lives of Wilf and Vera.