Well where to begin, firstly I guess I want to say that my uncle was more like a dad to me than my own father, even before my dad left us my uncle was always there for me.
When my dad walked out on my mum and I when I was 10 my uncle said that he could never replace my dad but he would always be there for me and he was, even gave me away on my wedding day. He was my mums youngest brother but so protective over both of us. We had all always been a close family and like any family had our struggles the worst point was when I was just 4 years old and my uncle had a complete mental breakdown he witnessed an attack on his best friend whom was stabbed and beaten by a group of lads, then my great grandad (his grandad) passed away and they were very close, he was hallucinating and hearing voices and he thought everything bad that happened in the world was somehow his doing.
The doctors diagnosed schizophrenia and after much heartache and him trying to take his own life on numerous occasions they had him sectioned. I don’t really remember much about this but I do remember missing him and making him cards and pictures and once being allowed to visit him. I even remember the men in white uniforms standing either side him which I didn’t pay much attention to at the time. I remember him coming home to my nans and how quite he was. The doctors had decided it wasn’t schizophrenia just a combination of events that had lead to severe post traumatic stress and mental exhaustion. So now we were told he would get over it and to give him time. Time passed and he met my aunt they went on to get married and have 2 children and before we knew it 24 years had passed and although my uncle would joke people would end up in the ‘nut house’ just like him we almost forgot it had ever happened.
Then my uncle now aged 48 lost his job, the building firm he worked for since he was 16 had gone into liquidation. He was distraught as he was not a confident man, he had dyslexia and found meeting new people difficult he took himself to the job centre where they arranged casual agency work for him but told him the rules for builders had all changed if he wanted to continue with being a builder he would have to get a license and pass exams. This was for insurance purposes but hadn’t been a problem before as the company he had worked for had had insurance but now he was faced with a nightmare of trying to read and write. He also confided in me that he felt the job centre looked down their noses at him as he was over weight, dyslexic and not very confident. Looking back it could of been he had an unsympathetic person or could of been his paranoia returning .
This continued for over a year never having full time work and now he was becoming distant with the family. We all urged my aunt to get him to the doctors, I even offered to go to as he and I were still close and he would talk to me, but she simply said ‘hes fine its just male pride’. He came to visit us as now we had moved to the coast. We did our usual walk with the dogs across the beach and he said he had never felt so free. I was happy he seemed more relaxed but now all I feel is guilt. You see when they returned home he set off for work the next morning the 19th march 2010 but never arrived there . My aunt didn’t realise anything was wrong until she woke the next morning to find he still hadn’t returned. Even then she didn’t really believe anything was really wrong. My eldest cousin rang me asking if I had heard from ‘dad’ when I said no he broke down in tears and said he was so worried as he hadn’t returned. I dropped everything packed up my kids and set off to where my uncle lived.
The police had now been informed but they didn’t know his history as my aunt said it wasn’t relevant. I went straight to the station and told them, they immediately put him as a vulnerable adult. We had to give statements try and remember every detail of last conversations. We took in photos and I got in touch with the missing persons charity whom were brilliant, they kept in constant contact and made posters for us. We searched everywhere we could think of, my grandparents were beside themselves the whole family was. After the first day I took the children home to their dad it wasnt fair on them to be in that atmosphere, aged 3 and 9 years they knew something was wrong but I wanted to shield them so all smiles I said I had to do a course for work for a few days. I felt guilty for leaving them but couldn’t sit helpless at home.
We searched everywhere we could think of it was an awful frantic feeling. The sutton and croydon police were brilliant and as I lived in west sussex they stayed in constant contact with west sussex police too just to give us a wider scope to find him. You see he had his own van so could travel anywhere. I travelled home on the Wednesday exhausted and needing to see my babies and hold them. I spent some time contacting any form of media I could think of. I had already made a facebook page and even tried the Jeremy Kyle show. A producer on there emailed my details on to a friend of his at the BBC and the next thing I knew they had contacted us to go on BBC missing live show live on air on Friday. They wanted my elder cousin and I and any pics or even a video of my uncle. Apparently a video is better a it shows how a person moves etc.
I dug out my wedding video he honestly hadn’t changed that much. We even had Chesney Hawkes putting up our posters at his gigs and doing shout outs for us. I felt we were going to find him the whole family did. So on the Friday we went live on the programme making a plea for him to come home to us and that we loved him. After the show there was so many sightings of him. He had been seen in my village cctv images proved it was him we were beyond excited we honestly felt he was just plucking up the courage to come home. Then on the saturday morning a delivery report filtered through on my mobile, you see I had sent loads of texts so I knew the second he turned his phone on my phone would get a delivery report. I was just getting in the bath when it came through I jumped out running through the house shouting trying to ring his phone but he had switched it back off by the time I got through. Still it showed he was OK.
Then Saturday evening our world fell apart, my cousin was back at his house in croydon and my younger cousin had asked to stay with me as her and I had always been close and she felt her mum needed space when my phone rang and my cousin was crying ‘hes dead, hes dead’ I couldn’t take it in then there was a knock at my door and it was the police they were there to confirm what my cousin had said. A lady walking in the woods near where my grandparents lived in croydon had found him he had taken his own life. They collected my grandparents as they lived near me and brought them to my house I just remember saying to them ‘I’m sorry I tried to find him I’m sorry ‘ we all blamed ourselves said we should have realised all the signs were there we should of known. I honestly believe all our hearts broke that night. I spoke to my aunt as I didn’t know what to do about my cousin she was 10 years old and upstairs in my house, should I tell her or wait ?
I just didn’t know but my aunt asked me to tell her as she felt I was better at that kind of thing. So we all laid on my bed as I felt I couldn’t repeat these words I let my daughter lay with us so she could hear it too and I told her that I was so sorry but dad had been found and the police couldn’t save him and he had died. I couldn’t tell her how he had died and she never asked me, not once I just felt maybe that was too much for her to hear. We lay and wept until they both fell asleep and I went back down to be with my grandparents. At this time we hadn’t asked how he had done it but I already knew, when we did get the details it turned out he had used the seat belt from the front of his van and it had been very quick. Some comfort not much but some.
We decide to visit where it had happened, and I am glad we did it was in a wood we used to picnic in as children and the tree from where he did ti you could see my grandparents old house, my nan was with us and she wept saying ‘he went home’ it was so peaceful and pretty there again some comfort. He never left a note but he had done drawings of him surrounded by bricks all broken on the floor and what looked like faces of people shouting, police and the coroner felt maybe the voices had returned and he didn’t want to go through it all again. My younger cousin stayed with me a while as she couldn’t face going home. My aunt couldn’t handle things so we helped her plan the funeral my cousin helped chose the songs and she wrote what she wanted to say. My aunt asked if I would say something as she couldn’t. I would of done anything as I felt so guilty, I still do I wish I had pushed more for him to get help I wish I hadn’t listened when he said he was fine. My grandparents are broken we all are we carry on because its what you do. We talk about him all the time remember the great times. I will share what I said at his funeral because for me it says it all.
Anyone who knew our Paul knew the kind of man he was, kind ,caring, would do anything for anybody, a light has gone out in our family and now we have to find a way to carry on with out our gentle giant. I know this is especially hard for my grandparents whom he loved so much and that they will always be proud of him. In name he was my uncle but in my heart he will always be my dad, he guided me in life picking me up when I fell and I know mum and I were so grateful to have him there.
I cant think of this as goodbye as I knew we will meet again until then we have our memories and they alone will help us through until we can smile again just as Paul would have wanted us to until then sleep tight.
I’m sharing this not for peoples sympathy I don’t need it and neither does he but because I want the world to know how brave my uncle was. Yes brave, its not the cowards way out as some would say to me he was brave and yes family left behind are heartbroken, grief stricken beyond belief but he is free and for me that’s more important. Part of me will always feel guilty that I didn’t find him or get him help and of course I wish things were different but its what he chose and I respect that.
Hey hun if you cant use this its fine just writing it has helped me. I know I haven’t done it justice but I could go on forever about it as its still raw. Thank you for having this blog and group I know I’m not one who stays in constant contact and that but without this group and now the blog these past months think I may have been a lot worse x