Home Kent News ‘Larger than life’ Swanley gardener who took own life in lockdown ‘just...

‘Larger than life’ Swanley gardener who took own life in lockdown ‘just wanted to be with people’

3
0
Advertise here from £20*

Original article from Kent Live

A self-employed gardener from Swanley took his own life after struggling with his mental health during the coronavirus lockdown.

Clifford Willingale, 60, was found dead in his van by a former police officer on May 22.

The red Vauxhall Combo van was parked in a remote location in an area of woodland just off Tinker Pot Lane in West Kingsdown near Sevenoaks.

READ MORE: The horrific murder of a Dover DJ that shocked the whole county

An inquest into his death was held today (August 18) at County Hall in Maidstone.

Signing up to the KentLive newsletter means you'll get the latest news direct to your inbox twice a day.

It couldn't be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions. You can also enter your email address in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms.

You can also sign up to our website and comment on our stories by pressing here and signing in.

Mr Whitehead, who had been a close friend of Clifford for over 40 years, described his behaviour in the months leading up to the incident as "out of character".

In a statement that was read out during the inquest, he said: "He was definitely a larger than life character, and before the lockdown we were seeing each other every six weeks.

"Our wives also got on well, it was like we had one big family."

Due to the nature of Clifford's business as a self-employed landscape gardener, he was not able to work or socialise during the lockdown period. His dad also died around the same time which was said to have taken a significant toll on his mental wellbeing.

You don't have to suffer in silence if you're struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email jo@samaritans.org, in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won't show up on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

He began to drink more and more, and also told Mr Whitehead he "could not take much more" in life.

"Clifford had a number of warnings from the council during the lockdown about social gatherings, but he just wanted to be with people," Mr Whitehead said.

"Some of his clients had died from COVID and he often spoke about a friend who had taken his own life.

"I really noticed in the lockdown how he had changed, and he opened up that he was not right in the head."

During their discussions, Mr Whitehead explained that Clifford would tell him all the ways to take his life, which coroner Alan Blunsdon suggested was proof he had done research.

In the early hours of May 21 at around 12.50am, Clifford was arrested by police on suspicion of drink driving.

He failed a roadside breathalyser test, and was transported to a nearby police station to undergo a more accurate test.

Tinker Pot Lane, near to where the vehicle was discovered

In the meantime, his wife Dawn, who he was married to for 27 years, picked him up from the police station and took him home.

It was then revealed that Clifford told his wife he was going back to collect his vehicle.

A police statement said: "Police arrived at the scene in the West Kingsdown area at 3pm on May 22.

"The car had been attended by Kent Fire and Rescue Service, who had smashed the left passenger window in order to gain entry."

A toxicology report published by David Rose indicated that a "fatal level" of carbon monoxide was present.

Coroner Alan Blunsdon said in his final concluding statement: "Clifford determined to take his own life – he died by suicide."

Sign up to get the latest stories from Kent direct into your inbox here

Original Article