Former cabinet minister’s wife took her own life, says coroner

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  • Owen Paterson
    British Conservative Party politician (born 1956)

Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson has paid tribute to his wife’s achievements in horse racing and the arts after a coroner ruled she took her own life.

An inquest was told Rose Paterson, the chairwoman of Aintree racecourse, was found dead by a police officer during a search of woodland close to her home in the early hours of June 24.

The hearing was told the 63-year-old, who became a director at Aintree in 2005 and its chairwoman in 2014, had made internet searches related to suicide in the weeks before her death.

Owen Paterson
Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mrs Paterson, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley, also served as a member of The Jockey Club’s main board of stewards, and as a Deputy Lieutenant of Shropshire.

In a statement to the inquest, North Shropshire MP Mr Paterson, who attended the hearing by video-link, said his wife had been due to remotely chair an Aintree board meeting on June 24.

The inquest was told Mrs Paterson had not left any note at the family home near Ellesmere, Shropshire, and had made plans to travel overseas to see one of their three adult children.

In a statement issued following the hearing, former Northern Ireland secretary Mr Paterson said: “The coroner’s verdict confirming that my wife Rose committed suicide by hanging is absolutely tragic for me, our family and all who knew her.

“We were married for 40 very happy years. Rose will be remembered as a devoted, loving wife, mother and grandmother, as well as a most successful professional in her varied careers in the arts, charity and racing.

“We are still a long way from beginning to come to terms with her death.”

In his statement, Mr Paterson said he planned to become more involved in suicide prevention, and thanked the coroner and West Mercia Police for “the very sensitive manner in which they have handled this tragedy.”

Rose Paterson
Mrs Paterson served as a member of The Jockey Club’s main board of stewards and as a Deputy Lieutenant of Shropshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The MP added: “I am now horribly aware that 18 people commit suicide every day in the UK and I intend to become more involved in suicide-prevention strategies.

“If I can help to prevent just one family going through the extreme anguish that our family is currently suffering, I will have done something really worthwhile.

“I ask everybody to respect our privacy at this desperately sad time.”

In a separate statement to the inquest, which was read to the court by Senior Shropshire Coroner John Ellery, Mr Paterson said he made a 999 call from his office after initial searches failed to find his wife, who had not answered four phone calls.

Family members were concerned Mrs Paterson may have been taken ill and had been unable to summon help, the MP said.

The inquest heard toxicology tests made no significant findings.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr Ellery said Mrs Paterson’s intentions could be established from the fact she was found in a remote area, and internet searches made between May 27 and June 23.

In a statement issued shortly after Mrs Paterson’s death, Sandy Dudgeon, Senior Steward of The Jockey Club, described her as a wonderful person who enjoyed participating in racing at grassroots level.

“She will be missed greatly for the person she was,” Mr Dudgeon said.

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