A LOVING elderly couple who jumped to their deaths left a note for their children calling it “the best way”, an inquest heard.
Great-grandparents Royston and Glenys Smith, aged 91 and 88, suffered fatal injuries when they fell from their flat at Crag Head, Manor Road, Bournemouth on December 3 last year.
An inquest at Bournemouth Coroner's Court heard that the “devoted” couple had left a note saying: “Sorry boys. This is the best way. Too much pain. Love mum and dad.”
Their two sons, Michael and Richard, were at the hearing.
Michael Smith said there was no sign they intended to take their own lives.
“I understand their wish to be together, I don't understand their methodology,” he said.
“The family believe they would have fallen together. They always were and always will remain inseparable.”
He said his parents, both originally from Pontypool in Wales, had lived at Crag Head for about 20 years in good health.
However since 2013 their health had deteriorated rapidly and greatly reduced their mobility, and the family had been discussing possibly moving them into a care home together.
Mrs Smith suffered from a debilitating back injury and osteoporosis. Her husband received treatment for prostate cancer and back pain, and both endured poor eyesight.
Michael Smith said his father had once said he would throw himself from the balcony if his wife was taken into a home without him, but he thought the comment had been flippant.
Cindy Hoyle, a caretaker and cleaner for the building, said Mr Smith had recently told her they feared they were a burden on their family.
“I told him they had a wonderful family and I was sure they didn't mind,” she told the court.
“They were very much in love and didn't want to be without each other.”
Coroner Sherriff Payne recorded a verdict of suicide.
He said: “It was a committed decision they made, carried out together almost in each others' arms.”
'Don't suffer in silence- get in touch with us'
Age UK Bournemouth's Chief Officer David Leighton said: “It is distressing to hear about people in this stage of their life feeling like this.
“This is especially sad when people feel there is no other action and take these extreme steps.
“As a society we must treat people with dignity and respect.”
Age UK Bournemouth provides a range of services to support vulnerable older people in Bournemouth and the surrounding area.
For details please call 01202 530530.
CAMPAIGNER Esther Rantzen has spoken out to raise awareness of the plight of vulnerable elderly.
Miss Rantzen established charity Silverline to support lonely and distressed elderly people.
The charity received two calls in the wake of the deaths of Mr and Mrs Smith from local residents.
“Silverline reminds older people that they are valued - they are our silver generation, a national treasure for their life experience, memories and the contribution they have made to this country,” she said.
“I am certain that many older people in the Bournemouth area would love to spend time chatting, having conversations with people and having a laugh.”
She said: “I would like to thank the Echo for promoting the helpline. It is clear older people need an advocate.”
Call Silverline on 0800 470 8090.
"There is help and support out there"
Caterina Husbands, a counsellor at the Bournemouth Society for the Visually Impaired, said she could understand why Mr and Mrs Smith were worried about their deteriorating sight.
“Statistically, older people who are visually impaired are more likely to think about or actually commit suicide than older people with good sight,” she said.
“It turns your life upside down and inside out but there is help and support out there.
“You have to go through the grieving process because it is a loss. You are grieving the loss of your sight just as you would the loss of a friend or family member.
“At first, it's common for people to feel anger and denial but I would urge anyone in that situation to seek help.
“We have a counselling room here in Moordown or we can travel to people's homes. It doesn't have to be the end of the world.”
BSVI are on 01202 546644.