Willingham by Stow man set himself on fire

Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2a
Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2a

A TROUBLED widower from Willingham By Stow committed suicide by setting himself on fire on playing fields in the village, an inquest heard.

Colin Dawson was suffering from depression and was struggling to cope with the loss of his wife - who died from lung cancer almost exactly one year earlier.

High Street, Willingham by Stow G120315-1

High Street, Willingham by Stow G120315-1

The 57-year-old also had financial difficulties and was evicted from home in High Street in Willingham after failing to pay rent to social housing group Acis, the inquest was told.

During the week of his death, on the Monday he was evicted from his home, on the Tuesday he attempted to take his own life, and on Thursday morning he was found dead.

His body was found by a farmer in the playing fields near the children’s play park in Willingham By Stow on the morning of Thursday 27th October 2011.

An inquest at the Lincoln Cathedral Centre on Thursday 15th March heard how self-employed game farmer John Edward Hewitt was driving across the playing fields looking for pheasants when something caught his eye.

Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2c

Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2c

He saw a petrol canister and what he thought was a tailor’s dummy on the scorched grass. To his horror, it was the body of local widower Colin Dawson.

A statement from Mr Dawon’s GP Dr Wass, said that he was well-known at the Willingham by Stow surgery while he was receiving treatment for a urinary problem, but his visits then became infrequent following the death of his wife, to whom he was the primary carer during her illness.

“His drinking increased and he felt very alone and had self-harm problems,” said Dr Wass.

The GP went on to say that Mr Dawson was being treated for depression, but had not collected his prescription for months.

Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2e

Police incident at Willingham by Stow playing fields G111027-2e

Dr Wass’s attempts to get in touch with him proved fruitless.

Another person who struggled to contact Mr Dawson was Acis housing manager Charlotte Wright, who had been trying to reach him after he failed to pay rent for months on end.

Phone calls were made and many letters were sent to inform Mr Dawson that hundreds of pounds of arrears had built up.

After numerous visits to the High Street property, Acis found the house in a ‘poor’ state. Eventually, after Mr Dawson failed to contact Acis, they sent him two letters on 19th September, one saying that they believed the property may have been abandoned and another saying that they would move to take possession of his home if he did not respond. Twenty-eight days later after no contact was made, Acis changed the locks to Mr Dawson’s house on 24th October.

DCI Katrine Morton from Lincs Police told the inquest that on Tuesday 25th October, Mr Dawson contacted police after he had tried to take his life.

It was a year to the day since his wife died.

Police then attended Market Place in Gainsborough where they took two knives from him, before taking Mr Dawson to Scunthorpe Hospital for treatment and assessment. As a voluntary patient, Mr Dawson left the hospital shortly after.

Speaking at the inquest, Mr Dawson’s brother Frank Ackroyd said: “We didn’t know about his problems - it’s a shock.”

“We had no idea about the amount of action that he’d taken to try to take his own life.”

He continued: “He had family in Scunthorpe. If he had been in touch then we would have helped him. We did try to contact him but hadn’t seen him since Christmas time.”

A witness statement from a lady who works at the nearby residential care home said that she had seen a small fire burning for about five minutes between 8pm - 8.15pm the night before.

Another neighbour saw Mr Dawson sat on a bench just a short while before at 7.45pm.

A post-mortem carried out by Dr Hodi at Nottingham City Hospital stated that Mr Dawson died from severe burns, and a toxicology report found that he had been drinking before his death.

In his conclusion, deputy coroner Richard Marshall said: “It’s clear that Mr Dawson had been troubled in the last few months of his life - by the loss of his wife and by financial difficulties and other problems.”

“Mr Dawson then decided to take his own life.”

Mr Marshall added: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family.”

He recorded a verdict of suicide.

Attending the inquest was also Willingham vicar Rev Pam Rose.

“Obviously in a small community like ours, a tragic event like this effects us all,” she said.

“I knew Colin from dealing with his wife’s funeral, but his neighbours knew him much better than I did.”

Rev Rose added: “We’re all very sorry for his family and their loss and our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this very difficult time.”