A millionaire’s wife hanged herself after arguing with her husband about her sleeping pill addiction, weeks after she threatened suicide on a world trip.
Sharon Halliwell, 48, had just returned home after flying on a month-long holiday to Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia with her husband, Darren Halliwell, 50.
The mother-of-two, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, had a long-lasting addiction to sleeping pills and ordered them in bulk off the internet.
She told her husband she had come off them and the pair went on holiday where Mrs Halliwell said she would kill herself on two separate occasions.
She had been expecting an appointment to a psychiatrist upon her return to the UK but after a mistake by a mental health nurse, the meeting was never made.
Because of the error at the North West Borough NHS Trust, she was instead seen by another community mental health team before her death on April 18 this year.
Just two years before her death, her husband apparently assaulted his wife onboard a British Airways flight to Houston, Texas.
It was claimed he urinated on the seats and caused the flight to divert, but no charges were brought after he paid the US court £3,250 bail.
The IT tycoon, who alleged his wife of having an affair, later admitted assaulting Mrs Halliwell after coming home drunk from the pub in September 2015.
His wife, who was also a grandmother, claimed to have secured herself in a bedroom and as a result he was forced to leave the family home in Aspull, Wigan, and given a three year restraining order against his wife.
The pair reawakened their relationship, despite having officially separated and kept in close contact with each other in the lead up to Mrs Halliwell’s death, with the restraining order being discharged by magistrates in May 2016.
Her body was found by Mr Halliwell at the bottom of her stairs in her £200,000 home after sending him messages the night before that ‘she would be gone by the morning’.
Mr Halliwell, who takes part in UK Based Masters Crossfit competitions, told the inquest at Bolton Coroners Court: ‘I would say that we had the close to perfect family. We went on holiday to Spain a lot when the girls were younger.
‘Sharon enjoyed the gym and pampering sessions and was an avid shopper. Throughout most of her life Sharon enjoyed relative good health.
‘She did have problems with OCD but did seek treatment for her condition. She suffered anxiety and depression which became worse and then the girls left the family home.
‘She had issues sleeping but didn’t seek help from her GP and instead bought medication from the internet.
‘She became addicted to the sleeping tablets. We separated around 18 months ago, because of her addiction.
‘Our relationship became volatile sometimes however we had been living together. After the separation Sharon moved to a new house on a new estate.
‘I do not have a key for that house. I have a key for the garage because I keep my motorbike in there and on occasions she would give me the key to her house but would always ask for it back.
‘Sharon admitted that she was addicted to taking the tablets. During this time she did some courses and had therapy to manage the situation.
‘In June 2016 she accepted that she was still taking the sleeping tablets and so we went to the drug and alcohol team.’
Mrs Halliwell had attended appointments with the drug and alcohol team in Wigan and Leigh in 2016, and by November she was telling them that she was no longer relying on the sleeping pills.
Mr Halliwell confirmed she was offered some support from them and was referred back to her GP, but he had to attend appointments with her or she may not go. He also said that she seemed to be improving.
Mrs Halliwell then began to display suicidal thoughts and actions, with Mr Halliwell adding: ‘She was talking more about having suicidal thoughts.
‘She had talked about taking her own life before, that was nothing new. She did talk about it from time to time.
‘We also decided to book a holiday to Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. Before this on three or four occasions Sharon made threats to harm herself.
‘She said that she was going to tie something around her neck. On another occasion I did call the police as she left my home saying she was going to harm herself.
‘I didn’t really want to call the police because of our history, but I did call them and they got in contact with her and she said she was fine and they said that she was not a risk to herself.
‘We left for the holiday on February 24 and was away until March 20. On our return we believed that she was going to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. She had never been properly diagnosed with an illness.
‘On the first night of our holiday she said that she was going to take her own life by jumping off the roof in Singapore.
‘The second day she tied a rope around her neck. I took it off her and she calmed down.
‘She was fine for the rest of the holiday and she had gone back to the Sharon I know.
‘When we got back she was having some work done to her house. I was around there and I signed for a parcel. I suspected that it was sleeping pills.
‘I asked her to open the package. She did and admitted it was sleeping pills. I told her that she should go to the doctor and they would prescribe them to her. That was the last time I was at the house.
‘She had the work done to her home and stayed with me for a couple of days. On the Friday she was quite argumentative and I don’t know why she was just arguing about everything.
‘It was about the tablets and she left and I didn’t see her after that. She did text me a few different messages.
‘She told me she loved me and then text me different messages, one was saying she felt too sick to get up.
‘I spoke to her on the phone in the evening. She didn’t want me to tell anyone the reason that we weren’t talking which was a reference to her taking the sleeping tablets.
‘I got a text from her on the Monday night saying that she had managed to keep paracetamol down and that she wouldn’t be there in the morning.’
Mr Halliwell received a phone call from his daughter Levi Halliwell, 26, asking if he had heard from her mother later that day.
When he said no they both went round to the property, where they found her at the bottom of the stairs and called the emergency services.
Showing his concerns about his wife’s death to the court, Mr Halliwell said he thought that his wife should have been sectioned for her own safety after so many impulsive suicide attempts.
He added: ‘I know the sleeping tablets would have been affecting her behaviour. Her problems could have been identified and then potentially her death could have been prevented.
‘She was supposed to have a referral to a psychiatrist but it never took place. I would have thought that she would have been sectioned for her own safety.’
Prior to her holiday, Mrs Halliwell attended at the mental health team in Wigan and Leigh, and was given an assessment of her mental health by a nurse.
Nurse Joanne Woodcock, assessed her mental health, and Mrs Halliwell scored 28 out of a possible 30 in the Columbia-Suicide questionnaire.
Miss Woodcock admitted that it was her mistake that Mrs Halliwell was not referred to a psychiatrist upon her return from holiday.
She said: ‘It was my error, on my behalf and I am not aware of what happened. I didn’t make the reference. It was a genuine error that was explored in an investigation.
‘We now have a system in place where my manager with review patients every week and we will get an email asking us if we are chasing up on them and where we are up to with things.
‘Mrs Halliwell did not present an immediate risk. She did say that in the past two weeks she had made suicide attempts, but that she was not feeling that way at that moment in time.
‘Her attempts were impulsive and she said that she did not want to die, and regretted her actions after she had done them.
‘We take into account the past and present and future and she said she was going on holiday and seemed to be looking forward to it.’
Miss Woodcock also admitted that she could not access triage notes made by an IAPT team, on that day, but the investigation team was told that requests could be made for the information to be passed on to them.
Phillipa Killeen, the IAPT nurse who completed the screening with Mrs Halliwell, told the investigation that the Halliwells had both been expecting the appointment to be one with a psychiatrist when she attended on April 3 this year.
Another appointment was scheduled with the IAPT team for April 10 but Mrs Halliwell did not attend, and so she was contacted and another appointment fixed for May 8.
Ms Killeen added that Mrs Halliwell had informed her of her history of suicide attempts, including swallowing batteries, and the therapies that they could offer her were explained.
She said: ‘She sent me a text explaining she wasn’t well on the 10 April, so I called her and she said that she wanted to book another appointment.
‘We also discussed if she had spoken to her GP about an assessment and she said she had not, so before her next appointment that was something I checked on and that was when I found out that she had died.’
Ian Sturton-Crook, head of urgent care at North West Borough Hospital, explained that changes had been made in their systems of communication since Mrs Halliwell death.
An investigation report showed that there were ‘obvious gaps’ in the communication between different systems, but also that the failure to refer Mrs Halliwell had been taken into account and suitable changes made.
Mr Sturton-Crook said: ‘The Rio system is one that came into effect in November of last year and it is more robust than our previous systems.
‘The mental health teams can access the IAPT notes, but they have to ask for access for them and in this case it was the weekend and there was no administrative staff to give access to those notes.
‘IAPT can access the mental health team notes but it is not routinely done.’
Mrs Halliwell also attended the drug and alcohol team in 2016, where Mike Brady described her as ‘motivated’ and ‘positive’.
He added: ‘Everything was going well. She was doing immaculately well. She was motivated to reach her goals.
‘She wanted to stop relying on the sleeping tablets and wanted to sort out the relationship with Mr Halliwell. She said she loved him and wanted to be together with him.
‘She felt it was her addiction to the sleeping tablets getting in the way of their relationship.
‘She enjoyed going to the gym and often showed up in gym clothes and we discussed how her gym going would have a positive effect on her mental health.
‘The last appointment she attended was on the 27 October 2016, where she said that she was drug free and feeling much better.
‘She was put onto the after care plan, and was invited to attend group therapy and speak to the after care team, but she never did.
‘We rely on co-operation with our clients in after care, we do not force them to co-operate. It relies on their co-operation.’
The medical cause of death was given as suspension by a ligature in the post mortem report.
Area Coroner Jennifer Leaming logged a conclusion of suicide, and clarified that she would be advising a review of the communication between the services in the form of a regulation 28 review.
She said: ‘It seems to me that various systems in place and the communication between them needs to be looked at with the North West Borough in particular.
‘I think the system needs to be reviewed to ascertain what work needs to be done to improve the communication and for the the gap in the system can be closed.
‘I am very sorry for your loss, she has been described to be a a bubbly woman with an affinity for shopping and the gym, we have heard about how keen she was on that. I am very sorry.’
After the inquest, Mr Halliwell paid tribute to his wife, saying: ‘Sharon was a fun loving girly girl who treasured and was treasured by her friends and family.
‘She was a much loved wife, daughter, mother and devoted nana who will be greatly missed.
‘The family are completely devastated by her death and ask for privacy and time to grieve.’