Devoted elderly couple made apparent suicide pact, inquest hears — (Croydon Advertiser)

SSRI Ed note: Devoted father and husband takes antidepressants, talks wife into suicide pact, they go to a park slit their wrists, he dies, she is rescued.

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Croydon Advertiser

Posted: May 01, 2014

By Rachel Millard

Police at the scene of Mr Gilbert’s death in September 2013

A DEVOTED elderly couple slit their wrists in a country park in an apparent suicide pact that one of them survived.

Severely depressed John Gilbert, 76, died from blood loss in Seven Sisters Country Park, East Sussex, last September, while his wife, Mary Gilbert, 78, was taken to hospital and recovered.

The pair had agreed to take their own lives due to Mr Gilbert’s long-term depression, his inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court heard today (Thursday).

The “very much in love” couple of 20 years, who lived in The Waldrons, Waddon, spent the weeks beforehand staying at a hotel in Brighton to plan their pact, the inquest heard.

On September 5, they travelled to the park in Exceat, Seaford, and waited for nightfall before each slitting their wrists with a razor.

While Mr Gilbert died from the cut on his right wrist, Mrs Gilbert survived despite her cuts and eventually made her way to the road where she flagged down a passing car to seek help.

She was at first arrested over the death, but prosecutors decided it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, and she faces no further action.

In a statement to the inquest, the Crown Prosecution Service added: “Mr Gilbert had suffered for many years with depression and on June 2013 he had decided that he was going to end his life.

“From the date they left their home address in June until September 5 they spent the time assessing the [best] location for their suicide.

It added: “It was not until they both visited the park on Thursday September 5 that John decided the circumstances were ideal.

“They prepared to commit suicide at the same time as each other.”

Mrs Gilbert was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital where she told police officers of the bond between her and Mr Gilbert and how they “did everything together.”

She added, according to police officer Allison Briggs who was at the hospital: “Ours was a unique relationship. […] All we wanted was a few extra years and the illness robbed us of it.”

The court heard how the couple had left suicide notes at the hotel where they had been staying, the Ambassador Hotel in New Steine, Brighton.

The hotel’s owner, Nick Head, described the couple as “utterly devoted to each other and very much in love,” adding they were fondly regarded by staff who had got to know them.

They had also left some money in an envelope for the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Beckenham, where Mr Gilbert, a retired railway engineer, had been treated for depression in the months before his death.

The father-of-three was being prescribed several anti-depressants around the time of his death and had a long history of contact with mental health services.

His mental health workers were worried about his wellbeing at the time of his death, but neither he nor his wife had been in touch after their leaving for Brighton.

Coroner for East Sussex Alan Craze recorded a conclusion of suicide “while the balance of his mind was disturbed”.

Mr Gilbert’s three children were by a previous marriage; he had none with Mrs Gilbert.

His only son, Stephen Gilbert, 56, told the inquest that Mrs Gilbert was a good influence on her father and had helped keep him stable.

He told reporters after the inquest the couple had a “very caring, loving relationship,” and were “just like one person.”

He added: “He was headstrong. Mary could change his mind to a degree but this [suicide] unfortunately was I think due to his illness.”

His father was a “top engineer” who could fix anything from a “train to a watch,” he added.