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Police failed to tell man's widow he left instructions for his funeral

Father-of-four, 39, was cremated rather than buried with pictures of his family after police failed to tell his widow he had left a suicide note with instructions for his funeral

  • Brian Alex Reynolds, known as Alex, was found dead at home in Bury on March 9
  • He left a note to his wife Victoria in his living room containing his dying wishes
  • However, Victoria only found out nine weeks later, once Alex had been cremated
  • She criticised the police and ambulance service for their responses on March 9
  • *For confidential support call Samaritans on 116123 or visit a Samaritans branch*

A father-of-four was cremated rather than buried with pictures of his family after Greater Manchester Police failed to tell his wife that he had left a suicide note with instructions for his funeral.

Brian Alex Reynolds, known as Alex, was found dead at his home in Bury, at 8pm on March 9.

An inquest at Rochdale Coroner’s Court heard that a friend had called 999 about the 39-year-old’s welfare almost five hours earlier.

A note left in his living room had contained his dying wishes, along with a message to wife Victoria, in which Alex told her she had ‘made all his dreams come true’. 

Victoria only found out about the note nine weeks after Alex’s death, when he had already been cremated, against the wishes he had left in his final message.

Detective Inspector Nathan Percival, who spotted the note after Alex’s body was found, apologised to Victoria and her family for the ‘miscommunication’ between him and other officers.

After the inquest, Victoria released a statement through her solicitors saying she believes Alex would ‘have got better’ if the police and ambulance service had got to him earlier on the day of his death. 

Brian Alex Reynolds, known as Alex, was found dead at his home in Bury, at 8pm on March 9. An inquest heard he wrote a note about his funeral plans, but this was not given to his wife until nine weeks later, by which time he had been cremated 

Victoria told the inquest she had initially felt ‘angry’ at Alex because she thought he had not left a note and presumed he had been angry with her, which ‘took a huge toll’ on her mental health and left her ‘distraught’.

In a statement about Alex’s life, Victoria said he had the ‘gift of the gab’ and managed to secure a job as a car salesman, following a ‘troubled’ upbringing.

Victoria said friends knew him as ‘funny’, ‘confident’, and ‘the life and soul of the party’, while at home he was a quiet family man, who adored his wife and children.

Alex and Victoria were childhood sweethearts, having been together since they were 14, and had three children, who are aged 18, 11, and eight.

They also had a long-term foster daughter, aged 12.

Victoria revealed Alex contracted meningitis in 2017 and despite recovering, he started to get crippling migraines on a weekly basis and this was a factor that led to a downturn in his mental health.

In March 2020, Alex was furloughed from his job and ‘struggled’ as his basic wage was ‘low’ and a lot of his earnings came from commission on successful sales, the inquest was told.

Eventually he lost his job, which Victoria described as a ‘big blow’ and he was diagnosed with depression in November 2020.

Alex got a new job in the new year and Victoria said he ‘seemed fine’ when she dropped him off to work on February 3.

She was later informed that Alex had attempted to take his own life and then called himself an ambulance, before being taken to the Irwell Unit at Fairfield Hospital.

When Alex was admitted, he opted out of Victoria receiving updates about his progress while on the ward but would regularly speak with her on the phone and in person. 

In the three weeks Alex spent on the ward, he showed considerable signs of improvement, according to Dr Ankur Khanna.

He was discharged on February 26 and in the next couple of days he was visited by mental health nurse Alison Ehliger, who described Alex as ‘affable’ and ‘amiable’.

She told the inquest Alex said he was taking his medication, and that he was able to recite the number for Samaritans back to her. 

It was deemed that no follow-up appointments would be necessary and Ms Ehliger said that if she had any concerns, she would have raised them with Dr Khanna.

Despite this, Victoria said that in the following days Alex was ‘not himself’.

In a statement to the inquest she said that he would ‘pad around downstairs’ at night time and in the morning there would be empty beer bottles in the living room.

She told the court that she had no insight into whether he was taking his medication and because of Alex’s decision not to have the nature of his treatment disclosed, she did not know exactly how much he should be taking or when. 

On March 5, Victoria’s brother Andrew went to visit Alex and Victoria and after becoming worried about Alex’s state, he said Victoria and the children should stay with him in Ramsbottom.

Victoria visited Alex on March 9 and she said they chatted, had a ‘lovely cuddle’, and spoke about how much they loved each other, before she left.

The same day, Alex’s friend Lee Bowers spoke with him on the phone around 1pm and became concerned after Alex questioned what the point of living was.

At 3.03pm, Lee rang 999 and told police that Alex had expressed suicidal thoughts. This was referred to the North West Ambulance Service ( NWAS ) at 3.13pm and was made a ‘category four’, meaning a response time of three hours.

He was later visited by another friend, Tom Stringer, who said he was not too worried about Alex.

However, just after 7pm, Alex sent Victoria a message telling her not to come to the house and asked her not to send Tom either. 

An inquest heard Alex attempted to take his life on February 3 before being taken to the Irwell Unit at Fairfield Hospital (pictured). He spent three weeks on the ward, and showed considerable signs of improvement, according to Dr Ankur Khanna, before he was discharged on February 26

She rang 999 at 7.16pm and paramedics arrived at Alex’s house just before 8pm where they found him dead in the hall. 

Liam Kendrick, NWAS’ acting service delivery manager, admitted an ambulance, which became available at 6.20pm, should have been sent to Alex but due to an error by the dispatcher it was sent elsewhere. 

Detective Inspector Nathan Percival attended Alex’s home after his body was found, and found the note in the lounge which he said he expected officers to tell Victoria about the following morning.

She never received any further contact from GMP.

DI Percival described it as a ‘miscommunication’ and offered to meet with Victoria to talk about it in person.

He said: ‘It’s tragic. I do apologise, it certainly shouldn’t happen like that.’

In a statement issued through solicitors JMW outside of the inquest hearing, Victoria said: ‘I have been left completely devastated by the loss of Alex.

‘I now have four children to raise alone. They have all been absolutely incredible in the way they have dealt with everything and I feel extremely proud of them all. However, it is clear they will be significantly affected by this for the rest of their lives.

‘I truly believe that, if the ambulance or police had got to Alex in time that day, he would have got better from this.

‘Our family has been through a terrible ordeal. An ordeal we shall never recover from.

‘The additional confusion from the initial failings, the lack of police contact and the fact that the note and photos were never mentioned or provided to me for nine weeks has taken a huge toll on my mental health and that of my children as we can never have complete closure knowing that we never had the opportunity to fulfil his final wishes due to errors of the police.

‘Alex and I were the best of friends and always needed each other. I feel lost without him. Alex no longer has a voice but I do and I would like GMP and NWAS to address these failings.’

**For confidential support call Samaritans on 116123 or visit a Samaritans branch** 

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