Depressed woman jumped from clifftop in worries about money and affair
A woman thought to suffer from the winter blues laid out her husband's funeral clothes before walking to a Cornish beauty spot and jumping to her death.
Christine Belcher was suffering from depression, worried about the faltering finances of her dress shop and had recently confessed to her husband, James, of having an affair.
The day before she was found dead at the foot of cliffs near to her home in Looe, the 59-year-old had tried to gas herself using the kitchen oven.
At an inquest in Truro, which recorded a verdict of suicide, Mr Belcher said his wife of 32 years had been depressed but he hadn't realised the extent of her illness.
"I think she was unable to cope with depression and the pressure she felt from the business."
After her body was discovered in an isolated cove between Looe and Polperro, Mr Belcher said he returned home. "I found she had laid out my clothes in preparation for the funeral service," he said.
Mr Belcher, a well known figure in Looe who was named the town's Citizen of the Year in 2002, said he believed his wife suffered from an undiagnosed seasonally affected disorder, a mood disorder linked to the coldest part of the year.
"She suffered from depression, usually in winter and I would say she suffered from seasonally affected disorder.
"She was happy and content in the summer, but the winters were very hard on her."
Mr Belcher said her cherished dress shop, which was linked to their pet store in Looe, had been struggling in the financial downturn and that had made her worse.
The inquest heard from Mrs Belcher's sister-in-law, Milly Bayley, who said that in the days before she died, she was "very low and her voice was flat in tone."
"Christine said 'it's all over, it's finished' and then (said) 'come and look after Jim'."
Mrs Belcher spoke about problems with finances and then, said Mrs Bayley: "Christine said she was trying to gas herself." Mrs Bayley said she rang her brother immediately, who rushed home.
On the morning of her death on February 29, Mrs Belcher had set off from home to go to Polperro and see her mother, who was in a nursing home there.
However, just before 3pm a walker along the coastal path found her jacket and handbag neatly folded on the top of the cliff.
He alerted police, who were already looking for Mrs Belcher after being contacted by her concerned family.
PC Jamie Hubbard, based at Liskeard, had searched the Belchers' home after being alerted by her husband and found a number of notes.
He added that Mr Belcher had said that his wife had recently confessed to having an affair with a man in Birmingham.
Mrs Belcher's body was subsequently found in an inaccessible cove and had to be airlifted out by helicopter.
A post mortem found she had died from injuries consistent with a fall from height.