A married family man hanged himself at the rear of Chester Cathedral after a day at the races with his wife and friends.
James Cockburn Greig, 49, a self-employed construction designer from Middlewich, took his own life according to the coroner at an inquest in Warrington held on Wednesday (November 15).
His death on May 11, by the rear cathedral entrance in Abbey Square, followed a bout of depression.
Although Mr Greig, a father-of-four, had previously expressed suicidal thoughts he had always denied he would ever self-harm. He had been on medication and was engaging with his GP and mental health services so his death came as a shock.
A statement was read on behalf of his widow Nicola, who was present but too upset to address the hearing.
She said: “I was not aware of any medical issues in James’ younger life but I know that he has always had problems with his mental health and I’ve been aware of these since we first met as he was very open with me.”
She said he suffered with insomnia and was diagnosed with sleep apnoea in 2016 which entailed wearing an oxygen mask at night.
“He also suffered with stress and anxiety which wasn’t helped with the stresses of his work. A few months ago the medication for his mental health problems was changed and made stronger but this was not working and he was due to go back to the GP to get it changed.
“He was very open with regards his mental health and we talked about this a lot. He has never self-harmed to my knowledge but has disclosed that he has thought about driving his car into a wall or an HGV.
“He has mentioned this a few times in the past but has always said he wouldn’t do anything like that.”
The couple went to Ladies’ Day in a minibus with a group of friends on Thursday, May 11.
“James won at the races with betting and had a really good day out and seemed in a good mood,” said Mrs Greig.
“Before leaving the races I said to James that he should ease off drinking as it would have an effect on his medication, which he did and had a bottle of water.”
At around 6-6.30pm the group of friends visited The Architect pub in Chester for ‘a few drinks’.
James went to the bar with the men as the women stayed outside but then suddenly disappeared.
Despite searching for Mr Greig for half an hour and making attempts to contact him by calling and texting and using the Find iPhone app, he could not be traced as his mobile was switched off.
Mrs Greig said it was ‘normal’ for her husband, who had consumed about 10 pints of lager, to walk off and find his own way home so the party returned to Middlewich in the minibus about 7pm.
Mrs Greig was awoken by a police officer at 1am the next day, who broke the tragic news.
The inquest heard earlier that evening a senior verger at Chester Cathedral, Corentyn Smith, had witnessed a man we now know to be Mr Greig sitting at the back of the service with his head bowed.
“His whole demeanour appeared not happy,” he said in a statement.
He was still present after the service had finished so was politely asked to leave and nodded. After locking up about 6.50pm, Mr Smith passed him sitting on a wall opposite the steps leading into the cathedral.
Less than two hours later paramedics were dispatched to the same area about 8.40pm but Mr Greig was pronounced dead at the scene. CCTV evidence revealed nobody else was involved in his death.
Area coroner for Cheshire, Claire Welch, noted the ‘recent pattern’ of anxiety but that Mr Greig was reporting to his GP and mental health team that he had no intention of acting out his ‘suicidal thoughts’, citing his family and children as the reason he would not do that.
But in all the circumstances she concluded the deceased intended to take his own life ‘at the point at which he did it’.