Duffield stabbings: Tributes to Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths

image copyrightFamily photos
image captionThe bodies of Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths were found by police on New Year's Day

Friends of a man and woman stabbed to death in the early hours of New Year's Day have paid tribute to "a wonderful mummy" and "a doting dad".

Helen Hancock, 39, and partner Martin Griffiths, 48, were found by police in New Zealand Lane, Duffield, Derbyshire.

Rhys Hancock, 39, is accused of murdering his estranged wife and Mr Griffiths in the marital home.

A friend said Ms Hancock and Mr Griffiths celebrated the new year at her house and left at about 02:00 GMT.

image copyrightHelen Hancock
image captionHelen Hancock and Martin Griffiths climbed Mount Snowdon together a few days before they both died

"She went home with Martin, and we all went to bed," Hannah Ruggins told BBC Radio Derby.

"I put my phone on the next morning, I looked on Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture of Helen's house.

"I showed the picture to my husband and I just said: 'Something awful's happened'."

image copyrightFacebook
image captionRhys Hancock is accused of killing his wife and her new partner

Ms Hancock, who had been using her maiden name Helen Almey, was a PE teacher at Fountains High School in Burton-upon-Trent.

Her friend of 20 years, Diana McGrath, said she had been "loving life" in her last few months after previously going through a difficult time.

"It was a whole new lease of life for her within the last six months," said Miss McGrath. "She just really started to pick herself back up again."

She had climbed Mount Snowdon for the first time, with Mr Griffiths, only a few days before they both died.

Ms Hancock had also enjoyed the "best ever" Christmas Day with her children and the wider family at her sister's house.

"Helen was like 'we had an amazing Christmas'," said Miss McGrath. "Everybody was together, all the grandchildren and everybody."

image copyrightDiana McGrath
image captionDiana McGrath had been friends with Helen Hancock for 20 years

She had two sons, aged three and nine, and a daughter aged four. They are being looked after by their maternal grandparents, who will be raising them with the help of Helen's sister and brother-in-law.

Ms McGrath said they were "still really coming to terms" with losing their mother.

"Helen was such a lovely mum," she said. "So caring and she just loved children so much. She had such a loving personality."

A fundraising page she set up to assist with the children's upbringing has already raised more than £22,000.

Another friend, Katy Rees, said Mrs Hancock was "a wonderful mummy to her three beautiful children", and "just a lovely, bright, positive person".

image captionFlowers have been left outside the house where the pair died

Mr Griffiths, a marketing and brand strategist, had been with his wife Claire for 21 years and married for 15 of those.

They had two children together, a daughter aged 13 and a son aged nine.

They split up in October but were still "very close", according to a friend.

"Claire actually only found out about Helen three days before they died, and it has been an enormous shock for her, but she did have chance to wish Martin well in his new relationship and they were in a good place," said Tori Yerbury, who met the family through their children's nursery in Mickleover, Derby.

She said Mr Griffiths wished his wife a happy new year shortly after midnight, just hours before he died.

He was "an absolutely brilliant dad", Ms Yerbury added, who was "passionate about his mountaineering".

An online fundraiser for Mr Griffiths's children has seen more than £2,000 of donations.

In a message sent through friends, Mrs Griffiths said she was "extremely grateful for everything everyone is trying to do for her children" via the fundraising page.

She has asked for privacy and said her "paramount priority is to protect her two young children".

Mr Griffiths's family said in a written message he was "a family man and a doting dad... a loving son, a loving brother and a special uncle".

image copyrightTori Yerbury
image captionTori Yerbury said Mr Griffiths and Mrs Griffiths were "still very close"

Mr Hancock attended a hearing at Derby Crown Court on Monday, but did not enter a plea.

The defendant, of Portland Street, Etwall, is next due in court on 28 February. Judge Nirmal Shant QC set a provisional trial date of 24 August.

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