A SUICIDAL HUSBAND
I met in Alastair in the late 80s – through The French Chamber of Commerce where I was a Board Director and founder of the Franco-British Construction Industry Group (which I chaired).
At the time, Alastair headed up a company looking after the UK interests of the Makhtoom family (including their horses, properties and grouse shooting enterprises).
The French Chamber was mainly self-funding and dependent on members’ contributions with regard to attendance . My division, The F/B Construction Industry Group, was thus an important contributor to the Chamber’s operations; participation at events was essential. So one day, I confronted Alastair and asked him why he never attended my receptions. He replied ‘ he was busy’ – so I countered: ‘don’t you have any staff?’
Thus started a romance which led to my first (only, thus far) marriage – Alastair’s second (he was divorced when I met him with 2 teenage sons). All went well during the first 10 years, with the usual ups and downs of life – till one morning, after breakfast, Alastair went out and… failed to return.
At the time, we were both working from home, sometimes on joint projects, sometimes not. Lunch came and went. At 6pm, I called his sons (who had not heard from him); the eldest went driving around London to see if he could spot his father’s car.
I started wondering whether he had had a heart attack, whether he was lying ill on a street corner…. At this point, I switched in efficiency mode: I took a tray where I placed 3 phones: the landline, my mobile, – both for incoming calls – and another landline to use for outgoing calls. I took this tray with me around the flat – fearful of losing that long-awaited phone call from my husband.
I called the police and was told they would log his disappearance but would only take action after 48 hours. I, in turn, started to log all the calls I made – to whom I had spoken, at what time etc. This copy book was added to the telephone tray.
That evening, his first wife (whom I liked) came up from Kent to keep me company. She was as surprised as myself; Alastair had never done anything like this before.
His phone went straight to messaging – and my voice messages went from angry to desperate. Still nothing…
I have not slept and start phoning round friends … just to talk. My friend Susan kindly offers to come down from Leamington Spa to keep me company.
It is now 24 hours since he has walked out of the flat in Westminster – seemingly quite normal. I call the police again and they eventually come over to take down the information and leave with his hairbrush for DNA identification.
Still no Alastair… I decide to keep an appointment with a friend – trying to get a semblance of normal life. Whilst sipping a coffee, my mobile rings: a very small voice states:
Voice: ‘hello, it’s me’
Me: ‘who is ME?’
Voice: ‘ME – it is Alastair. I have been silly. Do you understand I have been silly?’
Not recognising the Voice, I ask if this is a joke. ‘No’ the Voice replies.
Me: ‘Where are you?’
Voice: ‘I am in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge’.
Still in disbelief, I ask that, if this is the case, ‘could I speak to a nurse?’
… And a nurse comes on the line. It transpires it IS Alastair! Alastair had driven himself from Central London to Cambridge, took himself into the woods and had taken an overdose. Fate would have it that a dog found him, unconscious, wrapped in a blanket. His owner called the police. Alastair was admitted to Addenbrooke’s suffering from blood poisoning, hyperthermia and kidney failure. At first, he refused to give his name and was, as in the movies, plain ‘John Doe’. It was only on Day 3 that he relented and admitted who he was.
I later learnt that Alastair had prepared his suicide with military precision: he had taken from the flat a plastic glass, 2 bottles of wine, a blanket, my father’s morphine tablets and set off for Cambridge. He dismounted his mobile so that he could not be located. When he parked his car, he removed the SW1 parking permit and the Disabled badge which would link him to my parents. In other words, he had planned this for days; this was no random act. It was a premeditated act.
I was shocked at the duplicity of my husband whom I thought I knew….
That afternoon, I took the train to Cambridge and visited him – he was hooked up to countless machines – cleaning his kidneys, changing his blood etc. In 3 days, he – who had never been fat – had lost weight. There was nearly nothing of him left. His voice had changed as a result of the tubes that had been administered in his coma.
My first words to him were : ‘Do you want to live?’ to which he replied ‘Yes, please’. As I write this, I cry – hearing his little voice saying – so politely ‘yes, please’; tears trickle down my cheeks.
Alastair stayed 3 weeks in Addenbrooke’s – such was the extent of the damage he did to himself.
The hospital was wonderful and arranged for me to sleep over in a designated area for visitors to seriously ill patients. For the next 3 weeks, I commuted by train to and from Cambridge. The journey was not an easy one for me as I was due to have a hip replacement and my closest tube, St James’s Park, does not have a lift. Often total strangers – seemingly witnessing my discomfort – would come up to me and offer to carry my overnight bag or give me their seat. Indeed, such was the physical pain I was in, I was prescribed morphine patches similar in appearance to those worn by smokers kicking the habit.
Eventually, we come home together by train – me limping because of my hip, Alastair wobbling because he was so weak. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind…
Life slowly gets back to normal until …
Six months later
The same happens again… This time I am less frightened, because I KNOW he has gone off to kill himself. I do not use the term ‘ attempt suicide’ – believe me you do not ‘attempt’ suicide – you want to disappear in earnest. I can honestly say that, because I tried twice when I was in my teens – as the result of a domineering mother. So, you see, I forgave Alastair – I understood where he was at. The difference, though, I would not kill myself at this stage in my life as, now in my 40s, I did not want to hurt my husband.
So out comes the telephone tray and the copy book. The police are called. It turns out that one of the officers who comes over attended on the first disappearance and he remembered the facts with incredible recall.
Alastair’s toothbrush is taken again for DNA purposes and the wait starts.
I am sitting at a friend’s house in a sort of coma when my mobile rings; it is the Police! He has been found and is in a hospital in …. Scotland. As he admits to it being his second attempt, he is placed in a psychiatric ward.
As before, he had prepared everything to the last detail – including staying overnight in a B&B which he paid in cash. This time, he has taken himself to Royal Troon Golf Club where he used to play golf with his father as a young boy. Whilst he did take an overdose with ample quantities of wine, he was not able to carry it through, walked back to his car, reassembled his phone and called for an ambulance.
Finally, he is escorted back to London by 2 nurses who admit him to the psychiatric hospital in Vincent Square. This time though, I cannot find it in myself to forgive him nor can I find it in myself to touch him, let alone hug him. Alastair is put into the care of a wonderful psychiatrist but not put on any anti-depressants, as it appears he is not depressive; he has come up with the idea that he does not want to be a burden to me or his sons. He has witnessed his mother disintegrate into Alzheimer’s, my mother with Parkinson’s and ultimately my father with dementia – and does not want to be what he perceives as a ‘burden’. The experts believe he might have a mild form of Asperger’s – with which I agree, but Asperger’s does not lead to suicide.
Alastair is allowed to go out of the hospital for short visits. I have to admit I am frightened of him and only meet him in public places – until the time comes when he discharges himself and comes back home,- to the flat.
Two more suicides take place over a period of 18 months. After the 3rd, I rearrange the spare bedroom to be his room; I do not want to punish him – I want him to understand that actions have consequences. That obviously did not work as a 4th suicide takes place.
At this stage, I tell him he has to move out; I cannot bear the torture of seeing him leave the flat and not knowing if he will (ever) come back.. Distrust has settled in with the distrust has gone respect for him.
He finds himself a flat in Balham. We meet regularly, at least once a week. He visits me and even stays overnight one Christmas.
Two years later (3 years ago)
When you love someone, as I loved Alastair, you develop a 6th sense about them. One Friday afternoon, I call Alastair – the phone goes straight to voice mail. This is not a good sign. I try repeatedly – same result. I try again on Saturday morning and leave yet another message. I also call his younger son and alert him. We agree to call the police; this time, as Alastair has ‘history,’ the police go straight to the flat and find his body, and a note…
I am lucky the police decided to act there and then, as I was the only keyholder to his flat and had agreed with his son that I would go there on Sunday to check on him. I am so grateful to have been spared that shock.
It took Alastair 7 goes before being successful. I hope he rests in peace now.