Tragic death of Wigan rugby player trying to change his life

An amateur rugby league player who suffered from depression after taking cocaine and alcohol died by suicide, a coroner has ruled.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 3:30 pm

Andrew Parker, known as Andy, was in a cycle of drinking heavily and using the drug, before coming down and experiencing depression.

An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court today heard he separated from his wife of 18 months, Melanie Parker, in March so he could try to address the problem.

But just two days after asking his GP for support, he was found dead in a hotel room in Wigan.

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Andy Parker was a "much loved" member of Wigan St Pat's

Coroner Stephen Teasdale heard Mr Parker’s cause of death was hanging and concluded that he died by suicide.

The inquest heard Mr Parker, who lived in Golborne, had been taking cocaine and alcohol for some time, tending to binge rather than use them on a daily basis, but the “come down” effects led to him suffering from depression.

He was “caught in a spiral” and did not want to continue the pattern, but was struggling to leave it.

On Saturday, March 13, Mr and Mrs Parker decided to separate so he could work on the problem, but they remained in “constant” contact in the following days.

Mrs Parker said: “We made friends. We weren’t on bad terms. There was a reconciliation. I said, ‘I can’t have you back living at home because of the kids and stuff. I’m not going anywhere.’”

But a “concerning” Facebook post by Mr Parker on Friday, March 19 led to his family calling police, asking them to check on him at the Travelodge hotel in Warrington where he was staying.

Officers from Cheshire Constabulary assessed him but did not have any concerns and felt it was an “attention-seeking” call. His family asked during the hearing whether more should have been done.

Mr Parker arranged to speak to his GP on Monday, March 22 and was prescribed citalopram, an anti-depressant he had taken before.

His GP told the inquest he had concerns Mr Parker could harm himself, so he made sure he knew what to do in a crisis and that he was in contact with mental health services.

Mrs Parker said he was putting other plans in place, including going to support groups, to address his issues.

“He wanted to sort himself out and come back to the family home,” she said.

But two days later, she woke up to see Mr Parker had sent her several messages in the night, talking about how he loved her and the children and how sorry he was for letting them down.

When several attempts to contact him were unsuccessful, she later phoned Premier Inn, on Harrogate Street in Wigan, and asked staff to check on him.

Mr Parker, 41, was found unresponsive in his room and could not be revived by paramedics.

Two empty blister packs of citalopram were found in the room and eight empty cans a lager, with his mobile phone’s screensaver being a screenshot from a website referring to suicide.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Parker died by hanging. He had drank a “modest” amount of alcohol and taken a “large” amount of cocaine some time before his death, possibly several hours earlier.

Despite the empty packets of citalopram, tests showed he had only a “therapeutic” amount of the medication in his body and it did not contribute to his death.

The inquest heard Mr Parker had taken citalopram on and off over the years, having been diagnosed with depression in 2007.

He had previously tried to take his life by hanging 13 years ago, but was discovered by “pure luck” by his father. He had gone to see him after a coach at Wigan St Patrick’s ARLFC phoned to say he was concerned about him.

After his death, the club released a statement saying: “Our club once again has been shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Andy Parker, former player and much loved member of Wigan St Patricks. Andy could light up any room, was a joy to be around and a valued team mate to many players and his coaches. He was unique, funny and loved by many people at our club. Being in his company was an experience for sure. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone who’s life he touched. A light has certainly gone out with his passing. We will remember you always and hope you have found the peace you needed.”

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