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Torquay wife died in suicide pact which had been 'planned for years'

By Herald Express  |  Posted: May 02, 2013


A GRANDMOTHER from Torquay, who was suffering from Parkinson's disease and dementia, overdosed on sleeping tablets as part of a suicide pact with her husband, an inquest has heard.

Kathlyn Drake, 82, of Braddons Hill Road West, was provided with an excessive amount of Temazepam with the intention of ending her life. She then developed pneumonia and died in Torbay Hospital on October 17, 2011.

Her husband, Arthur, who was 88 at the time, took a similar amount of the medication. He survived.

The hearing heard that a paramedic was called to their flat on October 12, 2011, after a delivery driver discovered a note in the porch addressed to the couple's daughter, Kathy, from Dawlish, which read 'Kathy, don't be surprised' and raised the alarm.

Paramedic Christopher Ward said at the inquest that, after obtaining permission from Miss Drake, he gained access via an open window. He found Mrs Drake lying unconscious on the bed and Mr Drake in a drowsy state on the bedroom floor. Mr Drake said to him: "Please just leave us. We've had this planned for years."

The inquest heard that the couple had overdosed on Temazepam the previous night, and had left a three-page letter to their daughter, along with some money for her and their grandson, on the table.

Miss Drake, who attended the inquest at Torquay's Riviera Centre on Tuesday, said in a statement read by coroner Ian Arrow that Mrs Drake, who was born in Eastbourne, had been a nurse prior to her retirement and had spent time on a geriatric ward. She found it upsetting and feared developing dementia. She said: "She was very concerned about being a burden in her old age."

Miss Drake said that her mother had tried to take her own life in 2009 when her health began to deteriorate quite sharply and she was diagnosed with dementia. By January 2010 she was unable to talk or write.

She said her father was visually impaired, his hearing and mobility were poor, and he had very bad arthritis.

Miss Drake said: "Dad had quite an old-fashioned outlook on life and as the man of the house he wanted to take responsibility for Mum. Dad needed care himself but he tried his best to be Mum's rock. Dad loved Mum and any action would have been done out of compassion."

The inquest heard that Mrs Drake was only able to communicate with her husband by squeezing his hand.

Senior mental health nurse practitioner Michelle McLaren-Theisinger said in a statement: "Kathlyn attempted suicide by overdose when her health became intolerable for her. Arthur told her it would have to be a joint suicide as he wouldn't be left behind.

"He said he had been saving medication for a couple of years for this moment. Kathlyn had said she wanted to die when her quality of life was nil. He asked her if she was sure she wanted to commit suicide, and she squeezed his hand. He was devastated he had survived but happy Kathlyn was at peace."

The inquest was told any prosecution of Mr Drake for his involvement in his wife's death was not in the public interest.

The coroner, who said Mr Drake had indicated that he did not wish to attend the inquest, recorded a narrative verdict.

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