Monday, August 24, 2015

Widower, 69, killed himself because he was too proud to report he was continually reduced to tears after being 'bullied by his neighbours', inquest hears

Eric Sutcliffe (pictured with his granddaughter Cheryl), committed suicide at his home in Bradford, West Yorkshire 
An elderly widower committed suicide because he was too proud to report his next door neighbours over an alleged campaign of bullying, an inquest has heard.
Eric Sutcliffe, 69, was allegedly reduced to tears after being belittled, shouted at and taunted in a bitter feud over the sharing of a communal garden and was branded a 'pervert' after he was accused of staring at a young woman in the street.
But despite pleas from his other neighbours who supported him, the grandfather of 11 would not call in police and sought treatment for severe depression, the court heard.

Eric Sutcliffe (pictured with his granddaughter Cheryl), committed suicide at his home in Bradford, West Yorkshire 
Although the neighbours subsequently moved on, Mr Sutcliffe a retired gas engineer, feared he would be bullied again and became ashamed at being unable to cope. 
He was referred to mental health services on 16th January 2015 but six weeks later when he was still waiting to see a doctor - Mr Sutcliffe was found hanged at his flat in Wibsey, Bradford, West Yorkshire, by his daughter Yvonne Hanson.

The neighbours were named only at the hearing as Mr and Mrs Naylor but are believed to be Arthur Naylor, 72 and his wife Glennis, 63.

The bullying claims could not be put to the couple, who did not give evidence at the inquest and were unable to be reached for comment.
Today following an inquest in Mr Sutcliffe's death, Mrs Hanson claimed: 'My dad felt totally humiliated. The neighbours would call him names, stand looking up at his windows with their hands on their hips just staring at him, shout at him and their grandson would accuse him of staring at his girlfriend and call him a pervert.
'They stopped him sitting down in in their shared garden by making him uncomfortable and would call him mad, stupid and jeering at him. My dad was a big man and had never been bullied nor had he been a bully and because of this incessant torture, he felt less of a man and ashamed that he couldn't stand up to them.
An inquest heard he was subjected to a campaign of bullying by his neighbours, who allegedly resented sharing a garden with him. Here he is pictured with his late wife Kathleen
An inquest heard he was subjected to a campaign of bullying by his neighbours, who allegedly resented sharing a garden with him. Here he is pictured with his late wife Kathleen
'Eventually he wouldn't come out of his flat if they were around and if he needed to use his own toilet during the night he was frightened to do so because he was worried about the repercussions over the noise he might make. My dad was a diabetic and not being able to use the toilet caused him a great deal of pain.
'I myself was really cross about it and couldn't understand why they were doing it, they even tried to intimidate me and one of my dad's other neighbours. My dad wouldn't allow me to call the police, but I did contact the housing association as I understood that they had a no bullying policy. Unfortunately they didn't do anything to help him.
'I asked my dad to live with me, but he wouldn't as he missed being at home where his memories of my mum were. He was a true gentleman and a very proud man and all of this had such a detrimental affect on his mental health.'
Mr Sutcliffe had lived alone at the flat following the death of his wife Kathleen in 2002. The tragedy - a week before his 70th birthday - occurred a year after the Naylors moved into the apartment below his first floor flat following the sale of their home.
Mrs Hanson told the Bradford hearing: 'He was very ashamed at 69 for the first time in his life to be bullied. He took this as very negative toward his masculinity. Other than mum dying he never cried but he did cry over the bullying happening to him.'
'Both my dad and neighbours downstairs had iron gates and doors because there were a lot of break-ins. They would taunt dad through the railing of the gate. They also called dad a pervert. That absolutely devastated him. Calling him a pervert sent him spiralling downhill.'
Another neighbour Ann Nuttall, 63, told the inquest: 'Eric was a kind, proud man who had old fashioned values and was a total gentlemen.
'He was friendly to everyone he met and would do anyone a good turn. In the 26 years I knew Eric I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him and he never said a bad word about anyone else.
Mr Sutcliffe was reduced to tears after being belittled and shouted at during the bitter feud, the inquest heard
Mr Sutcliffe was reduced to tears after being belittled and shouted at during the bitter feud, the inquest heard
'The first sign of any trouble or negativity was when the Naylors moved in. As I understand it they moved from their own property into the flat and were in the process of selling their house. Not long after they moved in, Mr Naylor told me himself that it had been Mrs Naylor who had wanted to move to the flat whereas he didn't, but that they'd moved to a ground floor flat due to health problems.
'Not long after the Naylors moved in, Eric mentioned to me that he was having trouble with them as they had been making snide comments to him, had indicated they were unhappy sharing the shared garden, and were behaving in a way that made him feel uncomfortable in his own home.
'Eric attempted to deal with the situation himself by approaching the Naylors in a positive way, asking if they could talk about the situation and resolve any problem they felt they had with him. He tried to be the peacemaker and point out that they were neighbours and it was in everyone's interests to live together peacefully. Mr Naylor said his wife was busy and slammed the door in Eric's face.
He was very ashamed at 69 for the first time in his life to be bullied. He took this as very negative toward his masculinity. Other than mum dying he never cried, but he did cry over the bullying happening to him
'The situation continued and during December 2014 Eric started visiting my flat. On the occasions Eric visited me, he was upset with the way they were treating him, either snubbing and stonewalling him or making negative and upsetting comments. 'In one of these conversations he told me that Mr Naylor had asked him why he was always "perving out of the window" because he happened to be stood at his own living room window when Mr Naylor's grandson and his girlfriend were in a car in the car park under Eric's window.
'On a further occasion, he came again asking me if I thought he was a good person, I tried to reassure him that he definitely was a good person.'
Mrs Nuttall said she told him to log a complaint with the police and local housing association but he didn't report at the time. She added: 'It is my opinion that having come from their own house they resented having to share space and facilities and that Eric bore the brunt of this by virtue of living immediately above them and having a shared garden.
'Possibly also because there was conflict between the Naylors about whether their move had been a mistake, I think they may have taken some of this ill feeling out on Eric - using him as a scapegoat for their own unhappiness.
'In the weeks before his untimely death I saw Eric in the car park on one occasion, we spoke about the Naylors moving as I expected him to be relieved and positive about this, however he was still somewhat distressed, worrying about who the new neighbours might be and said "who am I going to get next, what if it happens again?".
Eric Sutcliffe's daughter Yvonne Hanson holds a photograph of her father outside court
Eric Sutcliffe and his grandson Gareth
Pictured left, Eric Sutcliffe's daughter Yvonne Hanson holds a photograph of her father outside court. Right, Mr Sutcliffe pictured with his grandson Gareth
'I tried to reassure him that they were a one off and he'd likely get someone nice and friendly as a new neighbour.'
The Naylors eventually moved out but in the week before he took his life, but they came back to the flat to meet potential people who were going to buy it to try and sell a security gate.
Mrs Nuttall added: 'Eric knew the Naylors were in the flat downstairs talking to the new neighbours and was really worried that they were saying negative things to try and turn the new neighbours against him.'
Following Mr Sutcliffe's death, police spoke to Mr and Mrs Naylor at their new home but they said they had 'no issue whatsoever' with the old man. His GP said there was an element of 'paranoia' about his neighbours.
Coroner Oliver Longstaff, recorded a verdict of suicide and said: 'It is not for me to make any findings on these neighbours especially as they have not been able to speak themselves. I note there may have been an element of shame and failure in not being able to cope.'

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