'Devoted' Croydon couple in beauty spot suicide pact, inquest hears

Croydon Guardian: John and Mary Gilbert, from Waddon, went to Seven Sisters Country Park to carry out a suicide pact (Picture: The Argus) John and Mary Gilbert, from Waddon, went to Seven Sisters Country Park to carry out a suicide pact (Picture: The Argus)

A "devoted" married couple from Croydon carried out a suicide pact at a Sussex beauty spot – only for the wife to survive.

John Gilbert, 76, and Mary Gilbert, 78, from The Waldrons, Waddon, watched the sun set over the Seven Sisters Country Park on September 5 last year before cutting themselves in an attempt to take their own lives.

While Mr Gilbert died moments later, his wife survived and flagged down a passing motorist.

The inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Gilbert, a former train engineer, had suffered with depression and bi-polar disorder for much of his life.

As a young man he had successfully undergone electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and with his condition worsening in later life he decided to opt for the treatment again.

His son, Stephen Gilbert, 56, described it as a “last resort” and the inquest heard his father had decided he would end his life in June last year.

The Croydon couple moved down to Brighton, Mr Gilbert’s “favourite place”, and stayed at the Jury’s Inn before checking into the Ambassadors Hotel, New Steine, on July 11.

Over the following weeks the pair planned the suicide pact and considered locations including Brighton Marina and Beachy Head.

Before leaving their hotel for the final time on September 5, the couple handed over a floral bag which was later found to contain “goodbye” letters to friends and family as well as gifts for staff at the hospital at which he was treated and documents relating to outstanding bills.

Mrs Gilbert later told police how they caught the bus to the Seven Sisters Country Park.

She said they watched the sun set together and waited for everyone to go before carrying out the plan.

While Mr Gilbert died soon after, she survived before making further unsuccessful attempts to take her own life.

She then made her way to the A259 and flagged down a passing motorist who called the emergency services.

Mrs Gilbert was taken to Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital where she was treated and made a recovery.

Coroner Alan Craze recorded that Mr Gilbert had taken his own life.

Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki, gave a cause of death as a haemorrhage caused by lacerations to the wrist.

Speaking outside court his son, Stephen, paid tribute to the “loving couple”.

He said: “They had been together for 20 years. It was a caring, loving relationship, they were devoted.

“I think my dad decided and Mary went along with him because she was devoted to him.”

If you are thinking about suicide you should call the Samaritans support service on 08457 909090.

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