PC and wife died in suicide pact after final holiday in Las Vegas
Updated 10:53am Friday 28th March 2014 in News
A POLICEMAN and his wife killed themselves in a suicide pact after selling their cars and going on a last luxury holiday to Las Vegas, an inquest has heard.
The body of the 41-year-old PC, who quit the Metropolitan Police before the death pact, was found sitting up in bed alongside his dead 49-year-old wife.
A coroner heard that former PC Philip Powell and his wife Vanessa were both depressed but had embarked on a last holiday to America.
PC Powell had been suffering from depression and had taken a staggering 245 days off work in just 13 months. His wife was also suffering from similar depression. They ended their lives in a planned double suicide at a house they were renting.
Letting agency staff used a ladder to peer through a bedroom window and saw the couple sitting up in bed.
The couple had left a number of printed and signed suicide notes, including one to the coroner, who said it was the first time he had experienced such a thing.
Mr Powell had quit his job by email while on a holiday in America, funded by selling their cars.
The inquest into both deaths heard the husband and wife had been "flat" and Mr Powell had amassed the 245 days off sick in the final 13 months of his job as a police constable.
When he failed to return to work after his sickness certificate expired, bosses at the Metropolitan Police were so concerned to discover he was in Las Vegas that they asked the Las Vegas Police Department to check on him and his wife.
Deborah Reay, of Richard James estate agents, had been in contact with the Powells about the early return of a house they had been renting since November 2012 in Swindon, Wilts.
The couple extended their leaving date by a week to August 20 but then made excuses and asked for one more night.
On August 22 Ms Reay revisited but got no answer and could see that the couple's dog had urinated inside the home.
She returned the following day, saw unopened mail and dog mess inside. After learning Mr Powell was no longer with the police, she went back that evening with her partner Aaron and colleague Gary.
Coroner David Ridley read her statement to police, saying: "They noticed there was a bedroom light on.
"Gary and Aaron used ladders. They saw a small gap through the curtain. I didn't see anything but they looked at each other and then Gary said he was going to call the police and said he thought or suspected there was a suicide at the address."
They managed to get into the address but stopped, with Aaron saying: "Oh my God" when they spotted a note fixed to a wall, stating: "Attention: If you are not the police, don't go upstairs".
Police Constable Mark Curle, of Wiltshire Police, was the first officer to arrive at the home in Chevalier Close.
Mr Ridley heard from Mr Powell's commanding officer, Superintendent Jonathan Morgan, the deputy borough commander for the City of Westminster.
Mr Powell had served in the police briefly in 2004-2005, before leaving and later rejoining years later.
Yet soon after rejoining Mr Powell started experiencing difficulties.
"If someone has had three periods of sickness or 19 days in three years then they are under some degree of scrutiny," said Supt Morgan.
"In 13 months Philip had been off for 245 days."
Mr Powell had been signed off work until January 18 last year and had tried to extend this via email to his GP but was told that could not be done.
When he failed to return to work his bosses discovered he and his wife were not only abroad but in the gambling capital of the world.
Supt Morgan said this sparked increased concern because of Mr Powell's mental state and also over potential corruption.
Local American officers checked on the pair - which angered Mr Powell - and before he was due to return to work he sent a resignation letter by email. However, he did not tell any of his family he had left the police.
The couple's GP, Dr Deborah Milligan, confirmed Vanessa Powell had first received psychiatric help in her teens "as a result of the effect her father was having on her and her mother".
She was recognised as suffering depression throughout her life, she said.
Mr Powell had been described as being "flat".
Dr Milligan, who treated the Powells at her surgery in Wokingham, Berks., when they lived in nearby Woodley, said that she had recommended the couple register with a surgery in Swindon when she heard they had moved. That never happened.
The coroner, hearing the inquest in Salisbury, Wilts., said: "I'm sure that both Philip and Vanessa died as a result of a deliberate act initiated by themselves.
"I'm not sure we will ever get to fully understand the reason.
"I've heard comments from the family that in recent contact with both Philip and Vanessa there was no indication this was on the horizon but I'm sure that both intended to take their own lives for whatever reason."
He formally recorded a conclusion in each case that they had taken their life while suffering from depression.
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