UPDATED: Motor Neurone Disease sufferer William Maguire, 72, committed suicide by taking a lethal cocktail of drugs in the garage of his home in Northwood, alongside a bid to gas himself in his car after being helped into place by his own son, an inquest has today (Wednesday) concluded.
As previously reported by Island Echo, Police were called to an address on Green Lane off Medham Farm Lane in Northwood shortly after midnight on 2nd March 2015. It is there that officers made the discovery of a man’s body.
A 52-year-old man – now known to William Maguire Jnr, the son of the deceased – was arrested on suspicion of assisting a suicide but later released without charge. A file was prepared for the director of public prosecutions, but it was decided no further action was to be taken.
Today’s inquest heard how Mr William James George Maguire, a former prison governor at HMP Winchester, was discovered by Police sat in the drivers seat of his Mazda car after officers received a phone call about a possible suicide. The phone call was made by Mr Maguire’s son.
The first officers on scene found flexible tubing running from each exhaust into the rear windows of the car, which had been ‘sealed’ with towels. Each tube had been attached to the exhaust pipes with foil and string. But the attempted gassing made no contribution to Mr Maguire’s death according to forensic pathologist Dr Basil Purdue. He told today’s inquest that normal levels of carbon monoxide were found in Mr Maguire’s body, as a catalytic converter was fitted to the car.
Ruling out gassing as the cause of death, Dr Purdue went on to say that the deceased 72-year-old had a level of alcohol in his system equivalent to being twice the drink drive limit and had taken a potentially fatal overdose of Tramadol. The cause of death was found to be mixed drug intoxication of alcohol, Tramadol and Zopiclone.
Towards the end of 2014, Mr Maguire was finding it more difficult to get around and complained of back pain. As well as having a severe lung disease, raised blood pressure, bowel inflammation, an enlarged prostate, carpel tunnel syndrome and mental depression, Mr Maguire had developed Motor Neurone Disease which was then formally diagnosed in early 2015.
On 19th January 2015, William Maguire attempted suicide by taking a mix of pills and alcohol as he simply ‘didn’t want to live with it [Motor Neurone Disease]’ – he had been told that within 6 months he would be totally incapacitated and unable to eat or drink. In comment to his cleaner, Maguire mentioned an assisted suicide organisation based in Switzerland and, with tears in his eyes, said ‘you haven’t got some rope out in your car have you’ – but the cleaner took this as a joke comment.
In a final bid to end his life, William Maguire asked his only remaining son to assist him in committing suicide by setting up the car as to gas himself. It was detailed in the inquest how on the evening of 1st March 2015, Maguire Jnr helped his father into the car before leaving him with a bottle of whisky, a tumbler, 3 sleeping pills and liquid Tramadol. He closed the car door, shut the garage and went back inside the detached home where he remained for over 3 hours.
He did not hear the car’s engine start, but when he returned at just gone midnight the engine was running. Maguire Snr had consumed the pills and alcohol of his own accord and started the engine, thinking that the fumes would kill him.
A suicide note was found alongside the body of William Maguire, confirmed by specialists as being written by himself. It read:
“I do not wish to be resuscitated. I just want to die.
“I cannot live with this illness”.
Police become concerned that an offence had potentially taken place due to William Maguire’s limited mobility and when Jim changed his account of what had happened, first denying any involvement in his father’s death before saying ‘You already know. I helped my dad commit suicide’. A drunk and distressed Jim Maguire was arrested at the scene on suspicion of assisting a suicide however, as previously mentioned, no charges have ever been brought against him.
A number of statements were read out in the court room from friends of the late William Maguire, who was a well respected and liked man. He had lived on the Medham estate for around 20 years and was a member of Newport Golf Club. He lost his wife some years previously.
In summing up, Assistant Corner John Matthews said:
“This court has heard the sad and very distressing circumstances of William Maguire’s death.
“It must almost be at the top end of a horrible condition to happen to anyone. Maybe even more so than cancer. It’s an extremely depressing condition not only for the sufferer, but for the family of the sufferer. I’m not in the least bit surprised Mr Maguire acted in the way he did.
“I’m satisfied that on 1st March he was quite determined to be successful in his suicide attempt, so a belt and braces operation was undertaken by him using the somewhat resistant assistance of his son. He put him [Maguire Jnr] in an almost impossible position, in my view.
“Mr Maguire was determined to carry out the actions that he did and had Mr Maguire Junior not been there, he would have done it on his own in some way.
Addressing Maguire Junior, John Matthews said:
“I express my sympathy and condolences to you Mr Maguire [Jnr], you were in a distressing situation. I am sorry you have been placed in the position you find yourself in. You did it out of great love.
“May I pay tribute to your father, he served for a long period in the prison service as a governor. He served with some distinction.
A verdict of suicide was recorded.
UPDATE THURSDAY – Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, Sarah Wootton has said:
“We are saddened by the conclusion of the inquest into the death of William Maguire, who ended his own life at home in March 2015 in an attempt to relieve the suffering that motor neurone disease was causing him.
“Tragically, this is not an isolated incident. Around 300 terminally ill people end their own lives in this country every year. Every eight days someone from Britain travels to Dignitas for an assisted death.
“The UK’s current blanket ban on assisted dying denies dying people the choice and control they deserve at the end of life. It forces many people like William to take matters into their own hands, ending their own lives behind closed doors in traumatic circumstances. The effect this has on their loved ones can be devastating.
“People who are well enough, wealthy enough and have loved ones willing to risk prosecution in accompanying them, can travel hundreds of miles to have an assisted death abroad. That choice is not open to everyone.
“People with motor neurone disease deserve better – they deserve a compassionate law that respects individual choice and allows people to wrestle back control from an illness that has robbed them of so much. Noel Conway, also living with MND, is currently fighting for these rights in the courts. When will Parliament finally listen to the pleas of dying people and take action?”
Help is at hand when you need it – you don’t have to be suicidal to get in touch.