Tragic death of popular Wigan grandad who struggled after retirement

A grandfather who felt “lost” after retirement and struggled with his mental health took his own life, a coroner has ruled.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:55 am

John Roby 62, was found dead in woodland near Ashton Heath, in Ashton, on August 11, after telling his wife Elaine he was going for a walk.

An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard she became concerned when he did not return and went to look for him, by which time emergency services had already arrived at the heath.

Mr Roby had worked as an engineering surveyor for an insurance company before retiring in March 2020, just two days before the first national lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bolton Coroner's Court

He planned to visit his grandchildren in Switzerland, but instead he had to stay at home and was classed as vulnerable after having his spleen removed eight years earlier.

Mr Roby, who lived in Ashton, began to suffer with anxiety in June and was said to be really struggling from early July.

He lost nearly two stone in weight, could not sleep and felt he had no purpose in life since retiring, the inquest heard.

He had previously been diagnosed with depression and anxiety nearly 20 years ago, after losing his job, and had another episode of anxiety in 2013 as he worried about his finances.

Mr Roby spoke to GP Dr Pal by telephone in July, complaining of feeling thirsty all the time and losing weight.

She arranged for blood tests to be carried out.

When the test results came back, she referred him for an MRI scan to check for colon cancer.

During a face-to-face appointment at the surgery to discuss the blood tests, a locum GP noticed Mr Roby was anxious and he said he was restless, having panic episodes and felt flustered.

He said he did not have suicidal thoughts. He was prescribed medication and referred for counselling, but he did not realise this would take place virtually and was turned away when he went to the surgery for the appointment instead.

Mr Roby thought he was having a heart attack on July 27 and emergency services were called, but paramedics found he was actually having a panic attack.

The inquest heard Mr Roby’s wife wanted to take control of his care and arranged a telephone appointment with the GP on August 11 at 9.30am.

But the call was made at 9.05am and she did not get to the phone in time, so it was rearranged for later that day.

Despite concerns about his care from Mr Roby’s family, Dr Pal said she did not think there was anything different she could have done for him.

Mr Roby’s daughter Louise Formoso said her father, who loved Wigan Athletic and being outdoors, had never spoken about wanting to harm himself.

She said: “I think he felt it was a weakness to tell us he was struggling.

“However, during the weeks before he died, he did open up about it, obviously not to the extent we know now, but how he was feeling, the fact he was struggling and he felt lost.”

The inquest heard Mr Roby had approached a neighbour a few weeks earlier who ran mental health awareness days, to speak about depression and ask for advice.

Analysis of his mobile phone’s internet history revealed he had viewed websites about anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts the day before he died.

A post-mortem examination showed the cause of his death was suspension by ligature.

Coroner Simon Nelson recorded that Mr Roby died by suicide while suffering a depressive illness.

He said: “I really have no doubt in my own mind that he intended the consequences of his actions, that he intended, sadly, to kill himself.”

He found nothing to suggest neglect by Dr Pal’s Surgery or anything that would contribute to Mr Roby’s death.

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