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By Anita Merritt
17:06, 17 OCT 2018 Updated 18:52, 17 OCT 2018
“It is plain Colin was much-loved and will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.”
A senior ambulance manager who was being investigated at work due to a complaint against him and had been receiving malicious phone calls about alleged drug taking, was found hanging in a park following a night out with friends.
Colin Bolsom, who had been diagnosed with bipolar and depression, had successfully managed his mental health while holding down a demanding role as acting operations manager covering North Devon with South Western Ambulance Service Trust.
An inquest at South Molton Town Hall today heard the 42-year-old had reported receiving concerning phone calls to police the previous month which accused him of abusing cocaine.
A post mortem examination revealed the father-of-three consumed a cocktail of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis before his body was found near a children’s play area at Old Town Park in Bideford on November 18, 2017. The cause of death was confirmed as hanging.
On the evening before his death he had been out with friends and had visited a number pubs in Bideford. Among the friends he was with were David Shackleton, who had known Mr Bolsom for six years.
He recalled how Mr Bolsom had been excited about booking a holiday for the following day with his partner to the Caribbean. He had also spoken of ‘strange phone calls’ he had been getting where the person had been trying to disguise their voice.
The evening they were out he said he received three of those calls and said he thought he knew who was making them. He also spoke of the complaint against him at work which alleged he had attacked a colleague with a pillow.
Mr Shackleton said: “I got the impression Colin was totally in control of things.”
However, after leaving a pub after last orders and going to a friend’s house his behaviour changed.
He recalled: “He became quite stern asking, ‘is this all a set up?’. I had no idea what Colin was talking about and tried laughing it off. He noticeably got much quieter.”
Despite three attempts to walk Colin home, each time Mr Shackleton said he would follow him back to the friend’s house.
“He began to stare at me in quite a menacing way,” he recalled. “I lost count of the number times he asked what was going on and each time I did best to reassure him.
“He had the same fixed stare and said, ‘I’m not scared anymore’. I put it down to him having too much to drink.”
He added Mr Bolsom also asked for him to give him a rope, and described how his behaviour had become intimidating.
Mr Shackleton said: “In all the time I have known Colin I have never seen him behave like this. He behaved like a totally different person.”
It is believed Mr Bolsom left the house alone for the final time between 5am and 6.30am. His body was discovered shortly after by a dog walker.
His GP, confirmed Mr Bolsom had a mental health history dating back to 2007, and during his last visit in October 2017 he had denied stress at home or work, appeared mentally ‘very well ‘ and life was stable.
The ambulance trust reported he had not tried to access its peer support network or Staying Well Service.
Detective sergeant Steven Bates, the officer in the case, confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.
Regarding the malicious telephone calls he confirmed a man has subsequently been interviewed and admitted to making the calls and said he had made them with the aim of stopping Colin with his alleged use of cocaine.
Det Sgt Bates confirmed there was no evidence Mr Bolsom had used cocaine before.
He said: “It’s difficult to comment on the impact, but it may have had a bearing on his mental wellbeing, in my opinion.”
His partner Sue Cooke told in a statement how Mr Bolsom had told her about the calls on October 13, 2017, and she had become increasingly concerned about them. After the hearing she added: “I love him dearly. He was a good dad and a family man and he will be sorely missed by us as a family. I am absolutely devastated.”
Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Philip Spinney said: “Colin had no history of self-harm. From the evidence we heard that night he had received unwanted calls and had a complaint at work.
“It is not clear from the evidence the extent that affected him.
“He had drunk significant amounts of alcohol and although we don’t know the circumstances he came to take it, samples revealed that he did have alcohol, cocaine and cannabis in his blood and urine.
“The indication was the cocaine entered his system in the hours before he died. It is not possible to fully understand the impact it may have had on his state of mind.”
Satisfied Mr Bolsom had taken his own life, he concluded: “The evidence does not fully disclose the reason why he did it.”
Addressing his family he said: “It is plain Colin was much-loved and will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.”