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Tattenhall mother takes her own life after marriage breakdown

The 54-year-old business manager suffered from depression, an inquest hears

The inquest was held at the coroner's court within Chester Magistrates Court

A proud Tattenhall mother took her own life after struggling with guilt following the break up of her abusive marriage, an inquest heard.

Alison Sharp of Burwardsley Road told her family that she was ashamed of getting divorced and worried that it would reflect badly on them.

The 54-year-old business manager had suffered from depression for several years and it had escalated in the weeks before her death.

Despite receiving medical help she was sadly found hanging in the stables at her former marital home on September 28, 2016.

Jean Harkin, assistant coroner for Cheshire, held an inquest into Alison’s death at Chester Coroner’s Court on Thursday, February 23.

Alison’s older brother James Abram told the court that his much loved sister was clever, worked hard and was very well respected.

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In 1982 at the age of 20 she married Peter Sharp and went on to have children, giving up her job to care for them.

When they were older she went back to work as part of the management team for a local estate.

But it was her work ethos that ‘didn’t bode well in a husband and wife situation,’ James told the coroner.

“He couldn’t handle the fact that people respected her for what she did. It seemed to undermine him somehow and he found that difficult to deal with.”

James explained that Peter ‘turned a bit violent’ and he witnessed several frightening attacks on his sister.

“Sometimes he could be a brilliant husband and a brilliant dad, but the red mist came down.”

Alison filed for divorce from Peter in 2016 and moved from the family home ‘for her own safety’.

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But following that her mental health deteriorated.

“She went quiet, didn’t talk much. She wouldn’t tell you what was wrong,” her 27-year-old son Michael told the inquest.

She lived occasionally with her brother and sometimes with her mother and, according to James, Alison stopped eating properly.

“When the papers came through she felt that she brought shame on the family,” he said. “She wanted to go back to him for the sake of holding her face.”

He explained that in the week before her death Alison visited her doctor and a counsellor after which she was ‘feeling a bit more positive’.

Medical assessment

Dr Emma Taylor of Laurel Bank Surgery in Malpas had treated Alison for depression several times since her first visit in May 2000.

During a visit to the surgery last year she said she had left her husband. “She was struggling with the feelings of guilt and the trouble this would cause her family,” Dr Taylor told the court.

She added that Alison had told her she thought about death but did not have any plans of suicide.

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When she returned to the surgery the week before her death, Dr Taylor said that she appeared ‘very different,’ had lost weight, was tearful and kept apologising.

Dr Taylor doubled her anti-depressant medication fluoxetine and arranged for Alison to see mental health nurse David Millard the following week.

Mr Millard told the coroner that the primary care mental health team runs an ‘urgent’ but not ‘emergency’ service which aims to see patients within four days.

If there is an immediate risk of self harm or suicidal thoughts emergency cases are referred directly to the hospital A&E, he said.

Alison did not display any of these risks, Mr Millard told the inquest, she maintained good eye contact and did not appear significantly depressed.

The day after her appointment on Wednesday, September 28, Alison’s family found her hanging in the stables of her former home.

In her conclusion the coroner said it was clear that Alison was in a relationship that ‘was not going well for several years’ and suffered from depression.

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She was an intelligent woman who fooled healthcare professionals into believing that she was not an immediate risk.

Jean Harkin recorded suicide as the cause of death.

Contacted GP

Alison’s son Michael told the court that prior to his mother’s death he tried to contact her GP to explain that her mental health had deteriorated.

He said that he spoke to a different doctor who ‘didn’t seem to pay any attention’ and that the experience was ‘not very good’.

Michael also said that family assistance in the mental and medical assessment of his mother could have been very useful.

“I’ve spent 27 years with my mum. I was there from the beginning and there at the end so I felt I had a much better picture of what was going on.”

He stressed that it is difficult for doctors ‘trying to build up a picture of a mentally ill person with the information that the mentally ill person is giving them’.

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