Widow whose husband died on sofa after row says fake relationship with his brother is 'for sake of children'

Chris Baynes
Michael and Ashley Murrell had twins together in 2013

A widow who found her husband dead on the sofa after a row said she had begun a fake relationship with his brother for the sake of their children.

Ashley Murrell, 33, was comforted by brother-in-law Chris after Michael, 36, died suddenly in May this year.

The pair provoked fury among family members after posting pictures of themselves in each other's arms on social media just weeks after her husband's death.

But they claimed there was no romance, with the widow insisting she just wanted her two children "to have a male figure in their lives".

The mum-of-three revealed Chris was living at her home in Wellington, Somerset, but said he was sleeping in the spare room.

"When Mikey died Chris was the first to come round and support me," she told Mail Online.

"I was in pieces and he was a massive comfort, not just to me, but the kids as well.

"We saw how well the children were reacting to having him around.

"They are used to having their dad around so it is nice and so important for them to have a male figure in their lives.

"We were pretending to be in a relationship for their sake."

The beauty therapist had told Michael to sleep on the sofa after arguing with him about working long hours on the night he died.

The following morning, she found him dead. A post-mortem examination found he had choked in his sleep, but the exact cause of death was inconclusive.

Ashley later learned her husband, a carpet cleaner, had been putting in extra hours so he could save up for a trip to Prague for their seventh wedding anniversary.

Michael and Ashley met in 2007 and married three years later. They have four-year-old twins, while Ashley has a 14-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Chris, an electrician, said believed his brother "would be happy to see I'm helping his wife and kids".

He added: "I don't know any brother who wouldn't.

"I am here to support Ashley and be a father figure for the kids but they are very clear on the fact that I am their uncle.

"We're a close family and Ashley and I have been great friends for 10 years but since the loss we've become best friends. I've been a rock for her and she's been a rock for me."

But the pair's closeness has sparked a family feud, with relatives sure they are in a romantic relationship.

The brothers' sister, Christine Murrell, wrote on Facebook: "I do not agree with what Ashley and Christopher have done I think it's disgusting and disrespectful to my brother Michael's memory."