Former minister Owen Paterson launches bid to shut down websites after wife took her own life 

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MP Owen Paterson has vowed to help stop the creation of websites that encourage suicide after his wife killed herself five months ago after accessing such a site.

Paterson called the websites ‘horribly inviting’ and has said he is investigating ‘any way anything can be done’.    

Rose Paterson, who was 64 and chairman of Aintree Racecourse, took her own life in woodland close to the couple’s home near Ellesmere, Shropshire in June.  

She gave no clue she was planning to take her own life before hanging herself in the woods. But she had researched suicide on the internet, it was later discovered.     

Mr Paterson told The Sunday Express: ‘These sites use incredibly seductive language, very measured narrative and are horribly inviting.’              

Opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, Merseyside. Owen Paterson with wife Rose Ridley walk the course

Opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, Merseyside. Owen Paterson with wife Rose Ridley walk the course

He is also focussing into the possible effect of Covid on mental health.

He and his wife contracted coronavirus at the beginning of the lockdown and he was ill for weeks, but his wife recovered far more quickly.

He said he was pondering if the virus could have had an effect on her mental health.

‘Rose didn’t do being ill and with the family at home she rallied round and seemed to get better far sooner than I did.

Owen Paterson and his wife Rose taking part in the Mongol Derby in 2011

Owen Paterson and his wife Rose taking part in the Mongol Derby in 2011

The wife of Tory MP Owen Paterson, Rose Paterson, pictured together, died from suicide on July 24

The wife of Tory MP Owen Paterson, Rose Paterson, pictured together, died from suicide on July 24 

Paterson told MailOnline of the ‘unimaginable anguish’ his family is suffering in the wake of their heartbreaking loss and said the desk of his ‘best friend’ Rose has remained untouched since the day she died. 

‘But ongoing research into the virus shows that, while it has a bigger, physical effect on men, women are disproportionately affected neurologically. Some it seems have had mini strokes and others behavioural changes.

Mrs Paterson was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse

Mrs Paterson was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse

 Her grieving husband, MP for North Shropshire, is now embarking on a mission to help build Britain’s suicide prevention strategies as he struggles to come to terms with her death. 

Paterson said if he can do something to save at least a single life, his quest will be worthwhile.

‘I shall be working at both local and national level to build suicide prevention strategies and support those organisations offering help to people with mental health issues.

‘There are organisations in Shropshire that are there 24 hours a day to help. 

An inquest into Mrs Paterson’s death heard her computer history revealed she had searched websites on the subject of suicide in the days before her death. 

He said he had met the coroner John Ellery who officiated over the inquest into his wife’s death and had established that there had been 39 suicides in Shropshire in 2020.

Mr Paterson also held talks with the mental health charity, Shropshire Mind and the Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire Suicide Prevention Network.

He said he feared the Covid restrictions will affect the mental health of many people and appealed to anyone feeling down or unhappy to tell someone.

‘Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies taking your own life.

‘The effect it has on family and friends is absolutely catastrophic and life lasting. If I can prevent just one other family going through this, it will be worthwhile.’ 

Chairman of Aintree Racecouse Rose Paterson. The wife of Conservative former cabinet minister Owen Paterson

Chairman of Aintree Racecouse Rose Paterson. The wife of Conservative former cabinet minister Owen Paterson

He was speaking at their home, where her desk is as it was the day she died with files for Aintree racecourse neatly stacked up to deal with and with notes preparing for a family meal alongside.

His desk, which is next to his wife’s has a photo of her and contains the usual constituency work, alongside books and papers on suicide.

‘We had been together for 45 years and married for 40. She was my best friend and I don’t think that I have even begun to take in what has happened.

‘She was a major figure in the racing industry and she played such a big role in many charities and trusts, such as Weston Park. This year alone she raised £35,000 for the Horatio’s Garden project for patients with spinal injuries at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital.

‘She was so well liked, so full of life.’

Mr Paterson spoke to the Mail Online from his Shropshire home where he said his wife Rose's desk has remained untouched next to his since her death

Mr Paterson spoke to the Mail Online from his Shropshire home where he said his wife Rose’s desk has remained untouched next to his since her death

He told the Shropshire Star that her death had affected him and their three children badly and left him with many regrets.

‘It has had a catastrophic effect. Rose will never see her grandchildren grow up, she will never know how much she was loved, how well she was regarded.

‘Four months after Rose’s death the total devastation and appalling anguish gets no better, it simply gets worse.

The MP says that the national suicide figures are grim reading with the Samaritans saying that there were 5,691 suicides in England and Wales in 2019, 321 more than the year before.

‘That is 16 people taking their lives every day.

‘There is tremendous work taking place in Shropshire thanks to Shropshire Mind and the Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire Suicide Prevention Network.

‘Anything I can do to help I will. I will also be taking this nationally to look at suicide prevention strategies and how the government can help and how the appalling websites on suicide with their horribly inviting language can be dealt with.

‘Suicide is now the leading cause of premature mortality in men younger than 50 – and another shocking statistic is that one in 20 suicide attempts succeed, which means there are far more people in the frame of mind that they try to take their own life.

‘There are very obvious issues that can lead to suicide: alcohol, drugs, money problems, losing a job and marital breakdowns and well as ongoing mental health.

‘But there are also people like Rose who have none of those issues and who have given absolutely no outward indication of their intention.’

Mr and Mrs Paterson have three children, a daughter Evie, right with her parents, and two sons Ned and Felix

Mr and Mrs Paterson have three children, a daughter Evie, right with her parents, and two sons Ned and Felix

Felix Paterson

Ned Paterson

Along with a daughter, Evie, the Patersons also have two sons Felix (left) and Ned (right) 

Mr Paterson added: ‘The last lockdown was in glorious weather when people could get outside, this is going to be a very grim winter and it could have a very serious impact on mental health.

‘This is why it is even more important that, if you are feeling in the least bit down or unhappy, tell someone. Tell your family or a friend, tell a teacher or a work colleague.

‘Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies taking your own life. I read a book that says, that the last thing you should do when you are feeling suicidal, is kill yourself.

‘I have talked to a lot of people, those who have lost close family or friends to suicide and to those who have made attempts on their own life.

‘One family told me that 40 years on from their son’s death they have not got over it.

‘It is the finality of everything. Having to cancel bank accounts or subscriptions, seeing the leaves drop from the trees and knowing she won’t see the new leaves grow in the spring.

‘It is waking to a beautiful day and knowing that she can’t enjoy it.

‘If I can do something to stop one person ending their life, one family having to endure the anguish, it will be worthwhile.’ 

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123, visit a local branch or go to www.samaritans.org    

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