A Devon garden business owner who got into debt during the first lockdown and was facing eviction was found dead the day after his birthday.

Matthew Willicott, 44, of Paignton, had not disclosed the problems he was facing to anyone, including his parents who had lent him money at the beginning of the lockdown last spring.

An inquest held in Plymouth today heard how concerns for Mr Willicott’s welfare were reported to police when his parents were unable to get a response from at his home on May 28, 2020.

After police gained entry later that day, his death was sadly confirmed.

A report from his GP told how he was rarely seen at the surgery, but had a history of mental health problems. He was diagnosed with depression in 2001, and bipolar affective disorder in 2005.

It was noted how he had previously taken two overdoses without telling anyone, and that he had ‘always been bad’ at sharing his thoughts with anyone.

Mr Willicott’s mum Anne-Marie recalled in a statement how in his early 20s he suffered with low mood and would not go out or go to work and ran up debts.

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but got his life back on track again and started working with his dad, who ran a gardening business, in 2012.

Two years later, when he retired, Mr Willicott took it over.

His mum recalled: “He was very popular with customers and said he was doing very well.

“The night the Covid lockdown was announced, Matt called me in tears worried about how he would cope financially.

“We lent him money to tide him over and after four weeks he said he had gone back to work, but I’m not sure if he did.

“There were no indications from him that anything was wrong.”

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His family became concerned when he did not attend a garden job on his birthday, or respond to his birthday messages on social media on May 27.

Mrs Willicott added: “Since his death, we found a lot of debt and that he was also facing eviction.

“His computer and phone were wiped so we couldn’t see if anything else was affecting him.”

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of his death was suspension by ligature.

Police confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances, and that the evidence suggested he had intended to end his life.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Ian Arrow said: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Matt resolved to take his own life.”

The Samaritans can be reached round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call them on the phone. You can reach them by calling 116 123, by emailing jo@samaritans.org or by visiting www.samaritans.org

Local help is also available from Devon-based charity Andy’s Man Club. It has four groups across Devon with a mission to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in men.





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