A wealthy businesswoman who became ‘frozen by fear’ following the destruction of her Italian holiday home killed herself weeks after attempting to take her own life by deliberately crashing her car, an inquest heard.
Company director Nicola Stubley, 56, of Barlow, Derbyshire, lost her Italian holiday home in a landslide in 2011 and became plagued by insecurities and growing financial worries.
The stress was made worse when her father passed away soon after the loss of her home and when she became embroiled in a legal battle for compensation.
She was then plagued by horrific suicidal thoughts which left her ‘frozen by fear’.
The mother-of-two, who was married to husband Nigel, then tried to kill herself in August 2019 by deliberately driving her car into a parked farm trailer.
She shattered both her knees, fractured her hip and suffered a ruptured spleen in the crash but miraculously survived.
However, Ms Stubley was found dead by her husband less than three months later after she suffocated herself.
Company director Nicola Stubley, 56, of Barlow, Derbyshire, became ‘frozen by fear’ following the destruction of her Italian holiday home and killed herself weeks after attempting to take her own life by deliberately crashing her car, an inquest heard
A note found beside her read: ‘I’m so sorry* I’ve been ill for many years. I never recognised it until it was too late.’ She signed off: ‘It will all be better now’.
But her husband Nigel told Chesterfield Coroner’s Court he was not told about his wife’s first suicide attempt or the full extent of her psychiatric problems until it was too late.
The food consultant, who was known to friends as Nicki, built a successful career after gaining a 1st class hours degree in Home Economics from Bath University. She married Nigel in 1993 and put having a family on hold to concentrate on building up their business.
She was 36 before she had her first child Lewis in 1999 and two years later their daughter Tilly was born. Her husband said she ‘worried more’ following the arrival of their children.
‘Before they were born we both worked long hours and the businesses did well, so much so that we were able to buy different properties abroad,’ he told the court. ‘That included the house in Italy.’
Asked how he would describe her wife he said: ‘She was driven, she was successful.’
Problems arose in 2011 when a landslide destroyed their dream property perched on an Italian hillside. Not long after her father passed away which badly affected her.
‘She was massively emotionally invested in that house,’ Mr Stubley said.
‘She loved it, she took the children there in the holidays and I would go over in between working back in England.’
By the start of 2016 Mrs Stubley contacted her GP for help saying she was struggling to cope with the stresses in her life and the long hours she was working, saying she wanted to ‘fix things’.
In a statement read to the court Dr Louise Jordan, who was also a friend of Mrs Stubley, said: ‘She was an attractive and popular lady who was a real career woman. She was always a high achiever, but also quite insecure.’
Ms Barlow, a mother-of-two, lost her Italian holiday home in a landslide in 2011 and became plagued by insecurities and growing financial worries.
And the GP added: ‘Material issues had a strong hold on her.’
The doctor said it was clear when she spoke to Mrs Stubley the loss of the Italian property was ‘an issue’ especially because of the ‘high financial loss’ and draining legal battle for compensation.
She was referred to a counsellor about her anxiety and in May prescribed anti-depressants after she confessed to having suicidal thoughts.
At around this time she resigned from running her natural health and beauty business, and by February 2017 Mrs Stubley was described as being ‘in a good place’.
But her improvement faltered and in May she returned to her GP saying she was anxious after her husband had been forced to sell one of his businesses and feared losing the family’s luxury home in Barlow, Derbys.
A second honeymoon in Spain later that year helped and at one point Mrs Stubley stopped taking her medication, but the ongoing legal battle was a constant source of worry to her.
Despite her husband saying they ‘had having plenty in the bank’, she worried about the family’s finances, paying for her son’s studies at Oxford University and fees for her daughter’s boarding school.
She also became convinced the historic old beams in their Grade II listed home were rotten and would either collapse or need replacing at great expense.
‘She was ill and catastrophised many things, including the house falling down,’ explained her husband.
By June 2019 her condition had deteriorated further and she confessed to her doctor she was having ‘the most horrific suicidal thoughts’ although she was adamant she would never act on them.
She was prescribed diazepam and was placed under the supervision of the local mental health team. She said her dark thoughts left her ‘frozen by fear’.
On August 24 Mrs Stubley shattered both her knees, fractured her hip and suffered a ruptured spleen when her car crashed into the back of the parked trailer on a road less than a mile from her home.
She had to be cut free from the wreckage and rushed to The Northern General in Sheffield where she spent more than three weeks recovering, before being transferred to Chesterfield Royal Hospital.
Mrs Stubley told her family she had lost control of the 10-year-old Ford Fiesta, which her children had been using for driving lessons.
But after her discharge in mid-September she admitted to her community psychiatric nurse she had tried to kill herself on the spur of the moment.
Mr Stubley, 60, said he had doubts it had been an accident, but it was sometime later, and after his wife had confessed to her sister she had meant to kill herself, that he confronted her.
‘We had our suspicions, but it’s shocking when your wife tells you that she has tried to kill herself,’ he said.
‘I was worried about Nicki’s safety and I put in place a team of close friends who were on a rota, so that she was never on her own.’
But he added: ‘She promised me faithfully that it was a one off. She said it was not something she was going to repeat.
‘I did not know anything else about what was going on, I had no idea she’d been having these thoughts for so long. She was not sharing that information with me.’
On November 13 Mrs Stubley’s nurse referred her to the crisis health team after finding her ‘distressed and agitated’ while visiting her at home.
Community Psychiatric Nurse Sue Archer told the court Mrs Stubley said she had been researching self-harm and suicide on the internet.
‘And, for the first time, she admitted the crash had not been an impulsive act and that she had driven around prior to it,’ she added.
The psychiatric nurse said Mrs Stubley was racked with ‘shame and guilt’ by her suicide attempt
During previous meetings she had made it clear to Ms Archer she did not want her husband to know.
‘When I asked her she always said not to bother him because he was very busy,’ explained Ms Archer.
She admitted after that visit she considered telling Mr Stubley, but added: ‘Breaking patient confidentiality is not something you do lightly, you could breach the trust a patient has and potentially they will never talk to you again.’
The next day Mrs Stubley received a home visit from the Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s crisis care team, but told them she had no suicidal intent and turned down their offers of extra support.
On Friday 15th November Mrs Stubley and her husband drove down to Oxford to see their son play the cello in a concert. They returned home in the early hours of Saturday 16th November.
Mr Stubley said. ‘She seemed ok’. Later that day his wife insisted he went with a group of his friends for a boys’ night away.
He tried to contact her during the evening, but said it was ‘not unusual’ for her not to reply.
He arrived home at 9am on the Sunday morning and found the doors locked, but managed to get in through a side entrance.
Inside he found his wife dead on their bed.
Mr Stubley said he had serious questions about how his wife’s risk of suicide was assessed given what the health professionals knew.
‘I feel just so let down, had I known even a little bit of what was in her head I would not have gone out that night,’ he said.
‘I have many questions, but all them have come from the paperwork I’ve seen subsequently because I was not told.’
Recording a conclusion of suicide Derbyshire Area Coroner Peter Nieto said he felt there had been a lack of a ‘focused discussion’ between Mrs Stubley and mental health staff about sharing information with her husband.
On the issue of determining how great a risk of suicide Mrs Stubley posed Mr Nieto said: ‘From the evidence I heard I did not get a clear sense of how that risk was assessed for Nicola.
‘I can’t find evidence any decision made contributed to her death, but it’s clear by the health trust’s own admission, there was a need for change in practice, which has now been implemented.’
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.