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By Nick Britten
William and Wendy Ainscow took a mixture of pills and walked into the sea in the south of the Spanish island.
A passer-by spotted them in the water. Emergency services found Mrs Ainscow, 64, unconscious but alive. They were too late to save her 75-year-old husband.
The couple had been tormented by their daughter Lisa’s autism and received little help caring for her. Suffering from severe depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, Lisa, 33, constantly demanded money from her parents with threats to kill herself.
Funding her obsessions – she had 2,000 pairs of shoes – led to Mr Ainscow being jailed for theft and left the family financially ruined.
Neighbours said Lisa’s parents became trapped in their home because they dared not leave her on her own. Time and again the Ainscows appealed for a residential care place, but to no avail. Two years ago, Mr Ainscow, who had led an unblemished career with the Ministry of Defence and in the defence industry, came out of retirement to take a job as a postmaster. He stole £50,000, which he gave to his daughter.
He was jailed for 15 months, although the sentence was later quashed due to the exceptional circumstances.
The couple then had to remortgage their house to repay the £50,000 he stole and another £50,000 he owed in loans. Despite the dire financial circumstances, they still felt bound to give money to their daughter, money that they did not have. They sold their house in Birkenhead, Merseyside, six weeks ago and moved to a flat in Birmingham.
However, on Monday Lisa contacted West Midlands police, fearing that her parents had agreed a suicide pact. Interpol contacted police in Tenerife, but the Ainscows’ whereabouts was not known – they had spent the night sleeping rough.
At around 9pm on Tuesday Mr and Mrs Ainscow took the drugs and waded into the sea off Los Cristianos beach. Last night Mrs Ainscow was being moved to a psychiatric ward at the La Candelaria Hospital in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. A police spokesman in Tenerife said: “It looks as if they both swallowed a large amount of drugs designed to knock them out before going into the sea.
“The woman has said she took a whole load of tablets. We’re probably talking about up to 30 beta-blockers and anti-depressants.”
Another said: “The woman has said that they were terribly unhappy and decided they would rather end their lives than carry on. She is in a very bad way.
“Now she’s having to cope with the fact that she has failed in her attempt to kill herself and is still alive and her husband is dead.” Last night, West Midlands police were trying to contact Lisa, whose disorders drive her to wash herself constantly and to write to public figures. But she was not at home.
After his release from prison last year, Mr Ainscow said that serving time was easier than looking after his daughter, which was “relentless and intolerably hard from the moment she wakes up”.
He said: “The doctors cannot section her because she doesn’t have the correct kind of mental health condition. The police cannot do anything unless she commits a crime. Everyone is powerless to help but it just means we are back to square one and we don’t know where to turn for help.”
Mrs Ainsow said: “From the minute she gets up she bombards us with threats. She is a child in an adult’s body. We don’t want to leave her to fend for herself but we don’t know what else to do.”
The couple had tried to commit suicide two years ago in Wales but were found by hotel staff. Mr Ainscow said then that he would not rule out trying again.
Yesterday their former neighbours in Birkenhead said the Ainscows had sold their house for £195,000, well below the asking price, having lived there for 25 years.
Alan Fessey, a train driver, said: “The last few years have been absolute hell for Wendy and Bill. They were battling with the council to get more help but the social services department simply left them to get on with it.
“Lisa was eventually sectioned last December and that gave them some hope and respite. They’d brought Lisa out of the hospital about a month before they moved and Bill seemed quite optimistic.
“He told me they wanted to start over in Birmingham as a family.”