A 76-year-old man took his own life at a local beauty spot in a suicide pact with his ‘devoted’ wife – only for her to survive, an inquest has heard.
John and Mary Gilbert had planned to end their lives at the Seven Sisters Country Park on September 5 last year but while John, a former train engineer, had died just moments after cutting himself, 78-year-old Mary survived and flagged down a passing motorist.
The inquest, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court last week, heard how Mr Gilbert had suffered with depression and bi-polar disorder for much of his life. He had successfully undergone electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) when he was younger and had tried it again as his condition began to worsen later in life. His son, Stephen Gilbert, had said this was a ‘last resort’ for his father and John had decided in June 2013 that he would commit suicide.
The couple, originally from Croydon, stayed at the Jury’s Inn and the Ambassadors Hotel in Brighton – John’s ‘favourite place’ – while they planned their suicide pact, considering various locations such as Brighton Marina and Beachy Head.
Before they left their hotel for the final time on September 5, they handed over a floral bag that was later found to contain goodbye letters to friends and family, as well as gifts for the hospital staff who treated Mr Gilbert and documents relating to outstanding bills.
The pair caught the bus to the Seven Sisters Country Park where they watched the sunset together and waited for everybody to go before carrying out their pact.
Mr Gilbert died within moments but Mary survived, despite making many further unsuccessful attempts to take her own life.
After she flagged down a passing motorist on the A259 at 2.30am on September 6, the emergency services were called and Mary was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, where she was treated and made a recovery. She was later arrested on suspicion of murder but released without charge.
Stephen, 56, paid tribute to the ‘loving couple’, saying, “They had been together for 20 years. It was a caring, loving relationship, they were devoted. I think my dad decided and Mary went along with him because she was devoted to him.”
A post-mortem was carried out on Saturday, September 7. Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki gave a cause of death as haemorrhage caused by lacerations to the wrist.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded that Mr Gilbert had taken his own life. If you are thinking about suicide, you should call Samaritans support service on 08457 909090.