A ‘funny and witty’ Derbyshire pensioner who spent her early years having ‘many adventures’ in South Africa took her own life as she felt she had ‘nothing to live for’ after losing her partner, her dog and her sight.
Julia Thornton suffocated herself at her home at Mount Pleasant, Youlgreave, an inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard this week.
The 68-year-old had a colourful backstory, having been born into a wealthy military family in Egypt in 1950.
She was an intelligent but quiet girl who preferred tending to her pony to parties, to the ‘disappointment’ of her outgoing socialite mother.
Julia was diagnosed with congenital heart disease as a child, meaning she was unable to participate in activities at boarding school in Sussex.
She later worked as a secretary in South Africa where she met close friend Valerie Cornish, who told the court: “We had a terrific time and many adventures.”
Julia returned to England where she trained as an occupational therapist before meeting her partner, Alan, and moving in with him in Scotland. They lived happily for over a decade until, tragically, Alan passed away from a brain tumour.
Julia was ‘devastated’ by his death and, on moving to Youlgreave, her health deteriorated- she suffered from persistent dizziness and gradually began losing her sight.
Mrs Cornish by this point was also living in Youlgreave and visited Julia daily. She said that Julia sank into a deep depression and told her friend she had ‘nothing to live for’ after her mother died and her dog then had to be put to sleep.
Julia was ‘on the radar’ of a number of health care professionals including the local mental health team, but ‘was reluctant to engage’ as she felt her problems were ‘physical, not psychological’.
“Her logic was that if her physical ailments were resolved, she’d live a normal, happy life and wouldn’t be depressed,” said Mrs Cornish. “So talking therapies and anti-depressants, which she was offered, seemed pointless.”
Visiting Julia on January 7 this year, Valerie was concerned when she didn’t answer the door as usual.
She later found her unresponsive in her bed and dialled 999 before performing CPR, but sadly it was too late.
Assistant coroner for Derbyshire, Matthew Kewley, concluded that Julia died of suicide, with the medical causes of death given as suffocation and mental health issues.
"Ms Thornton left multiple notes," he said. "The content of the notes was consistent with Ms Thornton's previously expressed intention to end her life.
"The court is satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, Ms Thornton intentionally took her own life."