A man believed to have killed his wife before he took his own life at Stockton was a long-term carer who had recently won a local award for community service.
Police are investigating the death of Martin Webb, 76, and his longtime wife Elizabeth, 75, after their bodies were found early on Friday morning.
Emergency crews were called to their Newcastle Street home after a concerned relative alerted them before 6am.
Police found Mrs Webb's body at the house, along with information that led them straight to Stockton Beach, where they found Mr Webb in the surf - he is believed to have drowned.
Police were tight-lipped about Mrs Webb's cause of death on Friday but confirmed she had received "obvious injuries".
The Newcastle Herald understands the circumstances surrounding their deaths were meticulously planned.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said Mr Webb had been a longtime carer for his wife and that she believed Mr Webb wouldn't hurt a fly.
Police have informed Mr and Mrs Webb's children about the deaths on Friday.
Newcastle acting Superintendent Gerard Lawson described the deaths as a "tragic incident".
"The family is certainly suffering a terrific loss of parents," he said.
"We believe they were a couple and they had been married for several decades."
Supt Lawson said police believed "medical issues" may have played a role in the tragedy.
He said police were not aware of any diagnosed illnesses, but that "maladies of ageing" were thought to have been an underlying factor.
When asked whether investigators were treating Mr and Mrs Webb's deaths as a possible murder-suicide, Supt Lawson said it was "a nasty way to think of it, given the circumstances and the tragedy that's unfolded, but it certainly would have some common features to other incidents of that nature, yes."
Mr Webb won a local award in recent months for his community service work - he was often spotted with his dog picking up rubbish around town or removing weeds from Lynn Oval, near his home.
At the time, Stockton community newspaper Portside Local described Mr Webb as "neither a zealot nor a publicity seeker, just a quiet man doing what he sees as a worthwhile job".
Sue Petro, who nominated Mr Webb for the award, described him as a tireless worker.
"When I moved to Stockton in 2012, Lynn Oval was covered in cat's eyes and he used to go out weeding all the time, down on his hands and knees, until they were gone so the kids could play there," she told the Newcastle Herald.
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"You would see him around Stockton picking up rubbish, cleaning up the beach and the streets. After football games at the oval he would spend hours picking up rubbish and making sure the place was spotless.
"When I asked him why he did it, he told me he wanted to give something back. He was just that kind of person, always doing things to help the community. He was very quiet and kept to himself, but he was a lovely man.
"Whatever happened, I have no doubt he would have been acting out of love. I really wish I'd reached out more to him. I'm devastated, it's an absolute tragedy and he'll be sadly missed."
George Curtis, a Newcastle Street resident of 14 years, said Mr Webb seemed "astute and educated" but private.
Mr Curtis said he knew Mr Webb to be "a lovely person".
"I've only seen Elizabeth once in the five or six years since they moved in," he said.
"I was shocked [to hear of the incident] but you wouldn't know what goes on behind closed doors."
Mr Curtis' wife Annette Hayward described Mr Webb as "maybe eccentric but lovely".
"It's very, very sad, whether it's in Stockton or anywhere - it's very sad," she said.
Other residents in Newcastle Street also said Mr Webb was private and very quiet and that they never saw Mrs Webb out of the house.
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner into the deaths of the elderly couple.
Supt Lawson said Mr Webb's "very loyal" dog was now in the care of the family.
"It didn't want to leave the house. It was very sad," he said.
"The family are grieving severely. This came without any sort of forewarning to the family.
"It's so sad that these sorts of things happen from time to time."
- Hunter Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 13 11 14