A teacher and an elderly woman died after they were attacked in the street three days before Christmas, an inquest heard today.
Teacher Amy Appleton, 32, died after she was attacked outside her home in Crawley Down, West Sussex.
Sandy Seagrave, 76, who lived close by and was understood to have been walking past the house, was also killed after she tried to intervene.
Neighbours say both women were brutally ‘bludgeoned’ to death in the residential street of the leafy Sussex village.
A 37-year-old man was discovered inside a house with serious injuries and was arrested on suspicion of murder.
He was rushed to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and has since been taken off life support.
Today an inquest into the two deaths was opened by senior coroner Penelope Schofield.
Amy Appleton, 32, (pictured left with husband Daniel) and Sandy Seagrave, 76, (right) both died after being bludgeoned over the head in a street in Crawley, West Sussex, three days before Christmas
A forensic tent is pictured inside a police cordon in Crawley Down, West Sussex
At the two-minute hearing post-mortem examinations revealed both women had died after suffering serious head injuries.
The hearing was told Mrs Appleton, a teacher who was married to Daniel Appleton, was found outside the house in Crawley Down on Sunday December 22 just a minute after the body of Mrs Seagrave, a widow, was discovered.
Ms Schofield said she was satisfied both women had died an ‘unnatural death’ and adjourned the inquest until April 28.
After her death family members described Mrs Appleton as ‘a rock for her family, a rock for her friends’, who always thought of others before herself.
Mrs Appleton, a teacher at nearby Copthorne Church of England junior school, was also described by her family as a ‘beautiful, caring daughter, sister and friend.’
Amy Appleton, 32, (pictured with her husband Daniel Appleton) worked as teacher at the Copthorne Church of England School, close to her home in Crawley Down, West Sussex
A tribute added: ‘Amy had an amazing personality. She was such a strong, positive person who always smiled.
‘She was a rock for her family, a rock for her friends and most of all a rock for herself. Amy always thought of others before herself.’
It added: ‘Amy led the life she was destined to fill, following her passions. Her school will be missing an incredible, dedicated teacher, she gave 110 per cent to her pupils.
‘Her light will always shine in our lives but a hole has been left with broken hearts.
‘The whole family would like to send heartfelt thanks for all kind messages and thoughtful tributes. Keep shining our girl, you will forever be in our hearts.’
Mrs Seagrave’s family described her as ‘one of a kind, an eccentric character who was stubbornly independent, feisty, brave and not afraid of anything.’
‘She was devoted to children and especially animals, including a wild fox who we are continuing to feed now that she has gone.’
Sussex police have not yet released details of how the two women died, but said it was not a knife attack.
People place flowers at the scene on Hazel Way in Crawley Down, West Sussex