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Cheadle man Michael Willis killed himself after being caught stealing and selling items from his work

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: January 31, 2014

coroners court

North Staffordshire Coroners Court

A CHEADLE man committed suicide after being dismissed from his job after being caught stealing and selling on building materials, an inquest heard.

The inquest into the death of Michael Junior Willis, of Thames Drive, Cheadle, aged 42, took place at North Staffordshire Coroners Court in Hartshill on Friday, January 31.

Mr Willis’ body was found hanging in woodland at Stanley Head Outdoor Centre in Stanley on March 10, 2012, where he had previously worked before getting a job as a site supervisor at a college from 2006 until 2013.

He had left several notes and a mobile phone video recording expressing his intent to kill himself and apologising to his family, the police and doctors for being “dishonest”.

Mr Willis’ widow Nicola Willis told the court that she met Mr Willis in 2008 and they were married in August 2010.

He had a daughter from a previous marriage and she has two daughters and a son from a previous relationship.

She told the court she was unaware Mr Willis suffered from any mental health problems until a holiday together in Turkey in August 2012.

She said: “He kept disappearing into the bedroom saying he wasn’t feeling very well and was on the phone all time, he got angry when I asked him if he was ok.

“When we came back on the plane he was like a completely different person.

“He didn’t confide in me and kept saying he was ok and just felt a bit off.”

on returning home, Mrs Willis said things seemed to return to normal for a while.

At the beginning of September, the court heard that Mr Willis left the house saying he was going to the college where he worked.

After he failed to return home and his mobile phone was turned off, Mrs Willis feared the worse.

She said: “I felt sick to my stomach and had a gut feeling something had happened.

“I went to look for him and had a hunch he’d be at the caravan we have in storage about 10 minutes from our house.

“As soon as I got through the ages the smell of Gas hit me.

“My son opened the door and Michael was lying unconscious on the floor.

“He was admitted to Harpland Hospital but he never explained why he’d done it, he just said I’d be better off without him.”

Mr Willis was released from the hospital and continued having support from the crisis team at the Brandon Centre.

While he was recovering, Mrs Willis found out he was in trouble at work because he had stolen building materials belonging to the college and sold them on.

She also discovered he had payday loans, but told the court she did not know why he needed the money.

Mr Willis was not dismissed from his job and returned in January 2013 and Mrs Willis said things seemed to be getting back on track, despite her feeling of unease.

She said: “I didn’t want to leave him alone because I was scared of him doing it again and I felt uneasy and was walking on eggshells.

“He seemed to be getting better but slipped back again in February.

“He started being very quiet and kept going upstairs lying down, and going into his own little world. I asked him to talk to me about it but he wouldn’t.”

On March 7, 2013, Mr and Mrs Willis argued and he left the house, calling her later to say he was handing himself into the police because he wanted to kill himself.

The police detained him under the mental health act and he was taken to Harplands Hospital for assessment.

After deciding that Mr Willis did not need to be detained he returned home at 3am.

The next day Mrs Willis found out Mr Willis had lost his job. and after telling him she “couldn’t do it anymore” he packed a bag and left the house.

She hoped he would go to his parents, but he did not and after she could not get hold of him she reported him missing.

However, the Harplands Hospital had also called the police as Mr Willis had missed an appointment with the crisis team that day.

Officers traced Mr Willis’ car at a Travel Lodge in Leicester and detained him under the mental health act, taking him to the Bradgate Unit at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

Mr Willis was assessed and doctors were satisfied he did not need to be admitted and he was taken back to his hotel.

After Mr Willis’ car was reported to have been left parked at Deep Hayes Country Park, police attended and after forcing entry found the suicide notes and video footage from Mr Willis stating his intentions to kill himself.

His body was found the next morning by staff at Stanley Head Outdoor Centre.

A post-mortem examination on March 14 2013 found cause of death to be hanging.

The court heard that following Mr Willis’ death, Mrs Willis found notes to his family dating February 2011 indicating his wish to kill himself , and referring to an incident earlier in his life when he tried to kill himself in Blackpool after absconding from the Army.

Concluding that Mr Willis committed suicide, Her Majesty’s Coroner Ian Smith said: “Mr Willis was one of those people who, when faced with major problems, found the only way out was to kill take his own life.

“He was very good at hiding his feelings from everyone else and he effectively conned everyone into thinking he wasn’t going to do anything silly, but in the back of his mind he always had the intention.

“This was a man who didn’t have a mental disorder but had a history of depression and self harm going back many years.”

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