Councillor who cut wrists died of heart failure

A SENIOR East Riding councillor found with both wrists slashed in the garden of his Hessle home may have died of heart failure brought on by the stress of trying to kill himself, and not from his wounds, an inquest heard.

Hull Coroner Geoffrey Saul heard yesterday how the former chairman of the authority, Liberal Democrat councillor David Ireland, 67, was found semi-conscious in a pool of blood by his daughter at his home in The Willows in April this year.

He had deep cuts to both wrists, and a razor blade was found on a table close by. Despite attempts to save him by ambulance staff, his heart stopped beating on the way to Hull Royal Infirmary and he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Mr Saul heard that Coun Ireland, who represented the Hessle ward, had suffered two major heart attacks a few months before he died and was suffering from severe heart disease. He was said to be "very anxious" about tests to assess his condition and had been on anti-depressants shortly before his death.

However, despite the deep cuts to both wrists, a post mortem examination showed that Coun Ireland actually died from heart problems.

Consultant histopathologist Alastair MacDonald said the cuts had not actually severed any major arteries or veins and bore no resemblance to other cases he had seen where the victim had died. He said that upon examination of the heart, he found that one of the arteries was 99 per cent closed and the other was 75 per cent closed, and the whole heart weighed almost double what it should.

He said that Coun Ireland's condition was so bad he could have dropped dead at any moment and that the emotional state he was in when he cut his wrists could have triggered the fatal problems. He gave the cause of death as due to heart disease, and added that he would not be "comfortable" in saying the cut wrists had played a significant part.

Coun Ireland's daughter, Elizabeth Townend, told the inquest that on the day of his death she had dropped her daughter off at his home so the child could go out for the day with her grandmother, Coun Ireland's wife, Mavis.

She said that her father was very withdrawn and quiet and had not talked much. Later that day she grew concerned at his behaviour and walked to his home. She found the door locked and checked around the property. Though a gap in the six-foot fence that surrounded the garden, she spotted him lying in a pool of blood.

Coun Ireland was barely conscious, and told a neighbour who tried to stem the blood flow: "Leave me. Let me go. I'm on my last breath." A note was later found in his pocket signalling his intent.

Mrs Townend said: "I thought he had fallen and hurt himself. It never occurred to me at first that he might have tried to harm himself. When the ambulance people were on the phone asking where the blood was coming from and I said it was his wrists I never even thought then what he might have done.

"It was only when I saw the razor blade on the table. Even then I thought he would be OK."

Mrs Ireland, the mother of his three children and wife of 42 years, said: "He had never talked about harming himself. He had got very anxious about the tests and had been off work for a few months several years earlier with anxiety but had bounced back."

Coun Ireland spent most of his working life as contracts manager with Hull Council, and became an East Riding councillor on his retirement in 1995. He was joint chairman of the planning committee, vice chairman of the Humberside Fire Authority and sat was on various local committees, such as the board of the Yorkshire Marina Partnership.

Mr Saul said he could not be satisfied that Coun Ireland died as a result of cutting his wrists, and recorded an open verdict.