Riddle over fiance’s gun death tragedy

Mark Whittle

Mark Whittle

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A WIGAN dad died of shotgun wounds in a mystery shooting a day after his partner had agreed to marry him.

An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court recorded an open verdict into the death of Mark Whittle after the deputy coroner, Alan Walsh, was unable to determine whether the 45-year-old intended to kill himself.

Mr Whittle’s 73-year-old dad, Arthur, who did not attend the hearing, discovered his son lying on his bedroom floor at his home in Back Lane, Appley Bridge, on Saturday, April 13, the inquest heard.

Concerned about his son’s welfare as he had not heard from him for several days, he went to the address with Mr Whittle’s 18-year-old son, Jack.

In written evidence presented the hearing, he said: “Jack remained in the hallway whilst I went to the bedroom. I saw him lying there with his feet against the door. He had blood on his face and I noticed a shotgun next to him.”

The statement added that Mr Whittle been in a volatile relationship with Danielle Toal for almost a decade and was due to appear in court over claims he pushed Ms Toal and her daughter.

Ms Toal, who also did not attend the inquest, said in her statement: “On Thursday April 11 I told him I had been summoned to court even though I wanted the charges dropped. He said he didn’t mind and that he still loved me. He was fine because I had just agreed to marry him.”

She added that they went to the Shamrock Pub, in Standish, and met his friend, Carl Taylor.

She left a few hours later and he moved on to The Last Orders pub and appeared in good spirits when he called her later that night. Mr Taylor told the inquest that Mr Whittle had appeared quite happy at the pub but had not mentioned his engagement.

Mr Whittle then went home and another friend, Raymond Taylor, visited him at 8pm. He said he did not appear too drunk, and seemed happy, but he didn’t know about the engagement.

John Foxon, Mr Whittle’s neighbour, said he had not seen him, but on Friday had heard music between 7pm and 8pm but did not hear shotgun noises.

DC Rachel Forsyth said there ere no suspicious circumstances and no suicide notes had been found. She confirmed that text messages relating to Mr Whittle’s engagement were on his phone.

She added that Mr Whittle did not have a shotgun licence and that as the weapon was sawn-off it was illegal.

Dr Stephen Wells, pathologist, confirmed the cause of death was a shotgun injury to the head.

He added that he had a high alcohol level in his blood, which would have been enhanced by his medication - zopiclone, normally used as sleeping tablets.

Mr Walsh concluded: “He was not a man who had any previous episodes of depression or self harm. In the days up to his death he seemed happy. I am not satisfied it was an accident. He had put ammo in the gun and it was close to his head. I do not know what happened to cause the injuries.”

Mr Whittle’s mum, Margaret said: “We wish there had been a better outcome - this should never have happened. He will always be remembered in our hearts.”