Former mayors ‘lost the will to live’ and killed her dogs before ending her life three months after husband’s death

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A devoted former mayors who was overwhelmed by grief after losing her husband ended her own life three months later, an inquest has heard. Delyse Critchley spent close to two months on a mental health ward after self harming and killing the couple’s two dogs days after her husband’s death, Bolton Coroners Court heard.

The 68-year-old then attempted a fatal overdose within 48 hours of being discharged from the unit, before ending her own life a month later. Giving a conclusion of suicide today (March 22), coroner Timothy Brennand said the devoted Mrs Critchley had ‘lost the will and appetite to live’ after losing her husband Norman to prostate cancer.

Mr Critchley had served as a Conservative councilor for Bromley Cross for more than 30 years before becoming an honorary alderman, and spent a year as Bolton’s mayor in 2009-10, while Mrs Critchley was his mayors. The court heard that her step-daughter of ella Janet Davies, who lives on the Wirral, had been unable to contact her in the days following her father’s death of ella on January 4, 2021.

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After being contacted by Ms Davies, police entered Mrs Critchley’s home and discovered she had self-harmed, and that the couple’s two dogs had been killed. Mrs Critchley was taken to hospital and admitted to the Oak Ward, at Royal Bolton Hospital’s Rivington mental health unit.

Ms Davies told the court that Mrs Critchley had asked her to make preparations for her husband’s funeral at this time, but she did not attend it as she was ‘not well enough’. Dr Akila Jayasekera, a consultant psychiatrist at Royal Bolton Hospital, said Mrs Critchley had told him there was ‘nothing here left now Norman and the dogs have all gone’.



Delyse Critchley (right) with husband Norman
Delyse Critchley (right) with husband Norman

He said Mrs Critchley was a Methodist who insisted God wanted the couple to be back together again. Dr Jayasekera told the court Mrs Critchley had also been ‘exasperated’ by coronavirus restrictions which meant she could not spend more time with her husband in his final days, while she also feared the pandemic would ‘get worse’ and that ‘the world was going to come to an end’.

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The court heard Mrs Critchley had no friends or direct relatives, and ‘did not want to burden’ her husband’s relatives. But having initially spoken of ending her life de ella sooner, she began to talk about the ‘presence’ of Mr Critchley ‘guiding her through the rest of life’ until it reached a ‘natural end’.

Several representatives from Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) gave evidence to the coroner, suggesting Mrs Critchley wanted her independence and had spoken about finding new activities to meet new people. She was discharged from Oak Ward on March 3 last year, but just two days later she was readmitted to hospital following an attempted overdose.

“I spoke to Delyse on a number of occasions then,” said Ms Davies. “I tried to get her to see that dad would not want her to be doing this.

“But I could tell the way she was speaking she wanted something completely different. She did not want to be alive.”

Mrs Critchley spent two weeks at Respite House, in Bolton, before moving back home. The court heard she was being looked after by GMMH’s home care team until March 29, when she was discharged from the service and set to continue receiving support from the community team.

Ms Davies told the court that her step-mother was ‘very insistent she wanted to be alone’ at this point. She added: “Delyse and I did not have a very close relationship but we did not have a bad relationship.

“I knew she was a private person and I did not want to overstep the mark with her.” Ms Davies spoke to Mrs Critchley for the last time on April 7, when she ‘just sounded like Delyse’.

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Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected] , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING , FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.

For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk

CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.

Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester who has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk

Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organization supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/

Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org

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For information and links to charities and organizations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/

Mrs Critchley was found unresponsive in her bedroom on April 8 alongside a letter in her handwriting and items she wished to be buried with, including a dress and her husband’s alderman plaque, the court heard. Toxicologist Julie Evans found ‘significant quantities’ of two drugs in her system, with consultant histopathologist Dr Patrick Waugh suggesting one of those substances led to Mrs Critchley’s ‘sudden’ death.

Empty tablet packets were found in a bin in Mrs Critchley’s home following her death. Ms Davies told the court that her financial records of her showed that her step-mother had used taxis to travel to different chemists about three times in the days leading up to her death of her, while a neighbor gave evidence to say she had seen Mrs. Critchley getting in and out of a car.

Mr Brennand, senior coroner for Manchester west, said: “It’s clear to me that Delyse Marie Critchley lived for her husband. She was somebody that dedicated her life to supporting her husband in whatever activity he chose and saw fit to perform.”

Having given a conclusion of suicide, Mr Brennand told Ms Davies and her son Tom that the family should ‘in no way reproach themselves’ over Mrs Critchley’s death. He told them they ‘acted with compassion, care, diligence and love’ before suffering the family’s ‘double tragedy’.

The coroner also concluded that Mrs Critchley’s death was not preventable, having accepted the evidence from GMMH’s representatives. Gemma Ratcliffe, who conducted a report for GMMH, told the court: “In this case it highlights a real challenge for somebody that does have capacity and has clearly stated that she is not willing to accept the help that’s available.”



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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