A devoted elderly couple unable to bear living apart committed suicide by drinking cyanide from tea cups at their dining room table, an inquest heard.
Retired physicist Arthur Prior, 90, is believed to have brewed the deadly poison himself in a lab in the basement of their £600,000 home.
He sat down with his wife of 60 years, Mary, 87, and they held hands as they sipped from the cups together, after writing suicide notes to their four children.
Mr Prior was found lying on the floor and his wife slumped in a chair at the leafy detached house in Malvern, Worcestershire.
Suicide pact: Police officers outside the Malvern home of Arthur and Mary Prior who decided to drink cyanide together because they couldn't cope with being apart
Neighbours said that the couple were 'inseparable' and could not face spending their last days apart. They had recently agreed she could be better looked after in a care home after health problems left her frail.
But after she moved there, they missed each other so much that they took the heartbreaking decision to end their lives together while she was on a visit back to their home.
Mr Prior collected his wife, a retired teacher, in a taxi on September 21 last year, the inquest at Worcester Crown Court was told.
They returned home and penned suicide letters, one of which read: 'We are in total agreement with each other that this is the best way and are happy about it.'
Care home staff became concerned when the couple did not return and alerted their friend Anita Hinett, who entered the house with police.
On the table were two milk cartons containing clear fluid and two empty tea cups smeared with yellow crystallised residue.
Mrs Hinett told the inquest: 'Neither could bear the thought of leaving the other alone and decided to take control in the only way they could so they could be together.'
Mary had been moved to the Cleeve House residential home. Care home staff became concerned when she did not return
Recording verdicts of suicide, Coroner Geraint Williams said: 'It is abundantly clear that their devotion was very great and I find myself moved to hear that when Mr Prior visited his wife he would insist on chairs being pushed together so that they could hold hands. The upset and distress that they had both suffered because of their parting can only be imagined by those of us who have not been married for 60 years.
'It is very clear that they had long determined to seek to end their own lives if it were possible. Both were highly intelligent and capable of making rational decisions for themselves.'
The inquest heard that, a few months before he died, Mr Prior had criticised euthanasia laws to his son Neil Cunningham-Prior, 51.
After the hearing, Breda Goulding, the manager at Mrs Prior's care home, said: 'They were totally devoted to each other. Mary had suffered several falls and was hospitalised and Arthur had also fallen down too so they decided Mary would have to move into a care home.
'Arthur would visit her three or four times a week. He would walk in and she would open up her arms and say, "Come here Arthur and give me a kiss."
'They would sit gazing at each other and chatting for hours.'
She added: 'They didn't give any indication of what they were planning to do but it is clear now that they had planned it for weeks. They couldn't stand to be away from each other and were utterly devoted. Arthur was a highly skilled physicist and I understand that he had built his own laboratory in their home where he obviously developed the cyanide.'
A neighbour added: 'Arthur was always pottering about in his basement where he had the lab. He used to say it kept his mind sharp.'
Another neighbour, Suzie Wolff, who lived opposite the couple, said: 'They were inseparable and Arthur looked after Mary who was going downhill physically.
'Arthur was in his 90s but was as bright as a button. They were a lovely couple who just wanted to be together.'
Mr and Mrs Prior had two sons who live in the UK and two daughters who live in Australia. No family members attended the inquest.