Pressures of farming led to three suicides

Pressures of farming led to three suicides

June 15, 2001 The Daily Telegraph (London) by Nigel Bunyan

THE PRESSURES of a farming industry ravaged by foot and mouth, BSE and spiralling prices were blamed yesterday for the suicides of three farmers within two months of each other.

Brian Oakley, John Bayliss and Glyn Lewis each became deeply affected by one or other of the traumas engulfing their farms in Powys, mid-Wales.

Mr Oakley, 54, a stockman and father of two who hanged himself, was the first to die. He and his wife, Gillian, had survived the aftermath of BSE but could not recover from having to sell his previous farm and take on a much smaller unit at Bryn Coch, near Llanfechain, Powys.

Four weeks later, and 23 miles away at Kerry, near Newtown, Mr Bayliss, 56, shot himself in the head shortly after ministry officials imposed a D Notice for foot and mouth.

Finally, on April 21, Mr Lewis, 59, hanged himself a few days before the beef cattle he kept near Welshpool, were due to be culled.

He spent seven weeks unable to operate his livestock haulage business for fear of spreading foot and mouth.

Yesterday, after recording suicide verdicts on all three farmers, John Hollis, the Powys coroner, said: "I have no doubt that the pressures of farming, be they foot and mouth, BSE or whatever, exacerbated the problems of each of these men.

"We have a situation where what has been a crisis for the farming industry has been a catastrophe for the families of these decent men."

The inquest on Mr Bayliss was told how his wife, Rita, discovered his body on the morning of April 2.

Inside their farmhouse, Mrs Bayliss found a P35 Inland Revenue form her husband had been completing. In a section where he had to write the capacity in which he was signing he had scrawled "suicidal" instead of employer. He left no other note.

Mrs Bayliss said her husband had just been given a licence to move some of his animals. Later the same day a D Notice arrived. "There were lambs everywhere," she said, wiping away tears. "They were dirty and wet and he couldn't move them."

Mr Lewis, a divorced father of three, had virtually finished lambing by the time he was finally overtaken by depression. His main business, however, was his livestock transport business.

This effectively dried up with the advent of foot and mouth. The slowdown in his business preyed on Mr Lewis's mind, even though he remained financially secure.

Mr Oakley had tried to commit suicide in 1992 but succeeded only in blowing away part of his face. His suffering in the aftermath of the BSE crisis caused him to have a breakdown three years ago.

At the end of 1999, the couple moved to a smaller farm but three days later Mr Oakley broke his leg and had operations on his face. Later he began to struggle with the stock he had bought.

"I'm afraid this was one of his failings," Mrs Oakley said. "He was a very good stockman and could not stop buying the animals. Then when he was ill, he couldn't cope with them." From September until his death on March 2, he remained "on a plateau" in which "everything was wrong".

Mr Hollis asked his widow whether the outbreak of foot and mouth had been a factor. She replied: "No, it was only about six or seven days after the first case. I don't think it made any impact on him."

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