Wigan pensioner who took his own life 'went under the radar'

Boyswell House in Scholes
Boyswell House in Scholes

A “happy” and “jovial” pensioner took his own life when he fell from the top floor of high-rise flats in Wigan, a coroner has ruled.

Bolton Coroner’s Court heard Anthony Caulfield, 79, was found outside Boyswell House in Scholes at around 11.25pm on October 25.

His relatives and health professionals told the inquest that he had not spoken about being in a low mood or wanting to hurt himself.

But coroner Alan Walsh recorded a verdict of suicide after hearing a safety mechanism restricting how wide a window could be opened in his 12th-floor flat had been disengaged, a chair was placed nearby and funeral arrangements were left on display.

Mr Caulfield was brought up in Scholes and lived with his mother Alice until she died around 25 years ago.

He served in the army, worked for a catalogue company and was a council gardener until he retired.

The inquest heard he enjoyed having a pint and was very independent.

He was receiving treatment for a problem with his eyes and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia.

A care package was put in place to support him, with a carer visiting each morning to help with his medication.

Carer Mandy Lloyd-Jones said she visited Mr Caulfield as usual on October 25 and noticed nothing unusual.

They made plans to go for breakfast together the following day, she said.

That day he went to nearby Sunshine House community centre, where he was a regular visitor and well-known to staff. Director Barbara Nettleton told the inquest he “seemed normal” and there did not seem to be anything troubling him.

However, staff told her he was more affectionate than usual and hugged them, as well as talking about going somewhere.

She said: “We were having lunch and he said something like, ‘I’m going away’.

“We said, ‘Where are you going Anthony’ and he said, ‘Oh you will see’ and we didn’t think anything about it.”

Det Sgt Phil Housley, from Wigan CID, told the inquest his investigation showed Mr Caulfield had been out somewhere and returned to his flat at 11.04pm that day.

The police were called just 20 minutes later after he was found on the ground outside.

A window was wide open in his flat on the 12th floor, with a chair placed up against it, and no signs of a disturbance.

Trevor Smith, group manager for planned works at Wigan Council, which owns Boyswell House, explained to the coroner that a restrictor on the window had been released so it could be opened fully.

It was usually used to allow people to clean the outside of the windows from the inside.

The inquest was also told about the care given to Mr Caulfield by health professionals.

Tim McPhee, head of service for living life well at North West Boroughs NHS Foundation Trust, said it was felt “a good level of care” was given, but changes were now being made in how people’s moods are assessed.

A post-mortem examination showed Mr Caulfield died from multiple injuries.

He had prescribed medication and alcohol at just above the legal drink-drive limit in his blood, but they were thought unlikely to have affected him.

Mr Walsh said he believed Mr Caulfield “went under everyone’s radar” as no-one suspected he planned to end his life.

He said: “I am sure that he did the act that caused his death because I am satisfied there was no third party involvement.

“I am sure he intended to end his life. I am sure because of the very slight changes in behaviour on the day.

“I am sure because there was a chair in place, he would have released the catches and he left out the funeral arrangements.”

After the inquest, his cousin Kathleen Quinlan said she believed he made the decision to end his life as he feared going blind or into a care home.

But she said his death had led to relatives being reunited.

You can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.