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Inquest: Ex-Leicestershire Police chief, Simon Cole, took his own life

Ex-Leicestershire Police chief, 55, took his own life while suffering from anxiety and sleepless nights ‘triggered by his retirement’ two weeks earlier, inquest hears

  • Simon Cole, 55, retired as Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police in March
  • His wife Joanne found her husband’s body in the garage of their home
  • Mr Cole had sought mental health support in the time leading up to his death
  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details 

A former police chief constable who took his own life just 12 days after retiring had been struggling with anxiety and restless nights after stepping away from his job, an inquest heard.

Simon Cole, 55, had spoken to his doctor and a mental health nurse about his anxiety, but even on the day before his death he had assured medical staff he was not considering self-harm or suicide, the inquest at Leicester Town Hall heard yesterday.

The coroner, professor Catherine Mason, heard how Mr Cole’s wife, Joanne, found her husband’s body in the garage of their home in Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire, at about 8.30am on March 30. She called 999 and an ambulance arrived but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Simon Cole, 55, had suffered from anxiety and had not slept for days due to worry about his future, his inquest was told 

Mr Cole told medical staff before and after his retirement that he was suffering from anxiety and a lack of sleep. He told his GP, Dr Gafar Oduwole and a mental health nurse that he had no intention to harm himself 

Mr Cole leaves behind wife, Jo Cole, pictured, who identified his body the day of his death, and his two children, Ben, 21, and Emily, 17. When he retired on March 18 he was the longest serving chief constable in the UK

No suicide note was found, LeicestershireLive reported.

Dr Gafar Oduwole, who was a GP at Kibworth Surgery, said Mr Cole – Leicestershire police’s chief constable until his retirement – had been getting professional help both before and after his retirement.

Recalling a telephone consultation six days before Mr Cole’s death, Dr Oduwole said: ‘He was still having high levels of anxiety and mentioned that he was struggling with lack of sleep.

‘The trigger was the fact he was retiring from policing. I tried to establish with him why he was retiring at the age of only 55 and he wasn’t keen to elaborate. I asked what he wanted to do after he retired and he said he wanted to decompress.’

Professor Mason asked the doctor: ‘You had no concerns Mr Cole had any plans to take his life?’ Doctor Oduwole replied: ‘That’s correct, ma’am.’

The inquest heard that Mr Cole, who was a police officer for 33 years, had a further consultation with a mental health nurse on March 29, at the surgery and again stated that he was having no thoughts of suicide. He told the nurse he had not slept for ‘a couple of days’.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable David Sandall also gave evidence and said Mr Cole, as well as getting help from his surgery and mental health services, had been receiving support from Leicestershire police ahead of his retirement.

Mr Cole, pictured here early in his career, retired after 30 years as a police officer and retired as the nation’s longest-serving chief constable

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable David Sandall also gave evidence and said Mr Cole, pictured, as well as getting help from his surgery and mental health services, had been receiving support from Leicestershire police ahead of his retirement 

Mr Sandall added: ‘Simon was very proud to be the chief constable and had invested significantly in his role. All our thoughts remain with Simon’s family and friends at what continues to be a really difficult time’ 

Mr Sandall said: ‘It was his choice to retire and it was based on him reaching 55 years of age.

‘Simon had been a massive advocate of well-being. He knew what was available and how to access the support.’

He added: ‘Simon was very proud to be the chief constable and had invested significantly in his role. All our thoughts remain with Simon’s family and friends at what continues to be a really difficult time.’

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Professor Mason said: ‘It was clear that retirement was a big step for him and he didn’t keep that to himself. He acknowledged that and spoke to people about his anxieties about retirement’

Professor Mason recorded a conclusion of death by suicide.

She said: ‘It was clear that retirement was a big step for him and he didn’t keep that to himself. He acknowledged that and spoke to people about his anxieties about retirement.

‘Although it troubled Mr Cole to retire, it was his decision and he’d accessed support. Mr Cole recognised the difficulty he was experiencing with this – his mood, his anxiety and his inability to sleep.

‘He said he had never had any thoughts to take his own life and medical practitioners engaging with him were reassured by what he said.’

Mr Cole’s family chose not to attend the inquest. Professor Mason recorded her ‘sincere condolences’ to the family and described Mr Cole’s death as a ‘huge loss’.

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see https://www.samaritans.org/ for details for details.

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