A father-of-five who suffered from depression during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020 phoned round his children ‘to say goodbye’ just days before hanging himself in the woods, an inquest has heard.
The assistant coroner overseeing the case heard that it took a total of two weeks for 56-year-old James Duncan Spary’s body to be found in the woods.
According to Manchester Evening News, James went missing from his home in Little Hulton, Salford, on June 16 2020, but it was not until June 27 that a hunt using police dogs to locate the deceased uncovered his body in the dense woodland nearby his home.
James’s daughter Beth, 22, told the hearing she had informed the police of where her father might be when she reported him missing on June 16, as it was one of his ‘favourite places’.
However, the location was not investigated until two weeks later and it was in this area that James was discovered. The father had to be identified by his tattoos.
Self-employed window manufacturer James, known as ‘Jimmy’ to his family, had become depressed and suffered from anxiety causing him to give up his business and having to find a job.
His wife Melanie said: “Things began to get on top of him. There weren’t really any money problems – it was all in his head.
“He did get a job, but he hated it because he was no longer his own boss. The situation deteriorated over the next 12 months and he became difficult to live with.
“He was taking anti-depressant medication, but I think it was causing his depression. That became a very difficult time for the family. There was a change in his character.
“In June 2020, the lockdown was having a terrible affect on James and I asked him to leave so we could give each other some space. I thought it would be temporary, but he might’ve thought it was permanent. “
She said that James also feared he might have early onset dementia. Although James left the family home to live with his sister, he visited every day.
Melanie said that on Friday, June 12 2020, he phoned all his children one by one.
“He told one of our daughters he loved her. It was unusual that he would do this,” said Melanie. “That’s when I think he made a decision that he couldn’t see a future for himself.
“He was saying his good-byes. Once he had done that, his mood seemed a lot better for the following few days. “
Beth told the coroner at Bolton that her father had confided in her on the lead up to the tragedy.
“He put a lot of expectations on himself about how he wanted to provide for the family,” she said. “He was worried he couldn’t provide for us.”
She said she helped him set up his Universal Credit, but even going through that process he was ‘overwhelmed’.
“If you offered him a solution, he didn’t see how it could end in a positive way,” she said. “Then I had a worrying conversation with him. He said he did not want to be here. He never said he wanted to take his own life, but on one occasion he said he was really overwhelmed and he was contemplating buying a rope.”
Beth said she believed he was cutting down on the medication he was taking for his depression and anxiety without medical advice.
Police coroner’s officer PC Marcheta Hogan said James was found by the dog patrol.
Handwritten notes were found on James, but no suicide note.
Beth asked PC Hogan why the information she had given the police about James’ possible whereabouts on the day she reported him missing had not been acted on and the area searched immediately.
PC Hogan said: “There was quite a lot of investigation in the areas covered. People in the area hadn’t seen anything suspicious. We weren’t looking for someone who was deceased, we were looking for a missing person.”
However, GMP’s professional standards branch had investigated the search for James to look at ways procedures and policies ‘could be improved’.
In a report submitted to the the inquest via PC Hogan, Detective Sergeant Suzanne Rigby said the danger to James had initially been set at a ‘medium risk’ level when it should’ve been immediately escalated to ‘high risk’.
Mr Teasdale said: “It could’ve made a difference in other circumstances, but not in this case.”
The coroner concluded James had died by suicide and the cause of death was suspension by ligature.