THE feared closure of his business following a Council inspection may have been the ‘trigger’ that caused a cattery owner to end his own life, an inquest heard last week.
Assistant Coroner for North West Kent, Alan Blunsdon, heard how Wayne Littlechild, 39, was found dead at Catnap Cattery in Liptraps Lane in Tunbridge Wells, where he also lived, on June 27.
The inquest at County Hall in Maidstone last Thursday (October 27) heard that Mr Littlechild’s body was discovered early in the morning by a lodger.
An ambulance arrived after 6am, before his stepmother – who also lived at the address – was aware of what had happened.
A post-mortem revealed Mr Littlechild had died by hanging.
Following an interview with his stepmother, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Groves, giving evidence via video link, told the inquest that Mr Littlechild had received a letter from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) calling him to appear at a Licensing Committee meeting on July 7.
It had followed an earlier visit by an inspector from the Council.
The Council’s Licensing Committee was to hear a recommendation to remove the cattery’s license and Mr Littlechild had been asked in the letter to submit evidence by June 27 – the date on which Mr Littlechild was found dead.
Asked by the Assistant Coroner whether the letter could have been a ‘trigger’ in Mr Littlechild’s subsequent actions, DS Groves confirmed it could.
“The letter is strongly written,” he said, adding that it was ‘fair to say’ Mr Littlechild could have been ‘worried or upset’ by it.
DS Groves also said Mr Littlechild’s GP surgery and health records had shown no evidence of any recent low moods, although he had visited the surgery following the death of his father, Barry Littlechild, in 2016 but was not prescribed medication.
The police found evidence on Mr Littlechild’s phone and iPad that he had researched methods of suicide in the week preceding his death.
The inquest also heard from Mr Littlechild’s stepmother, Olga Johnson, who told the coroner: “My view is that the letter from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was appalling. It was all in legal speech and I think that must have frightened him.
“We did have a conversation about it. I said to him: ‘We can go together on the 7th of July.’ It sounds as though I didn’t win that one.”
She added: “He had Crouzon Syndrome [a genetic condition which may lead to learning disabilities]. There is no way they should have written that letter in those terms.”
Before summing up, Mr Blunsdon said that the proceedings were not a trial and that participants ‘may never know’ why Mr Littlechild took his own life.
But he noted the timing and content of the letter, saying it had been received on or after June 17, and that ‘after he received the letter it was probable that Wayne then began to undertake research on the internet into taking his own life’.
He added that although the timing of the letter may be ‘coincidental’ he was ‘satisfied’ that the letter played on his state of mind thereafter.
Mr Blunsdon concluded that Wayne Littlechild had died by suicide.
Catnap Cattery was closed last weekend and Ms Johnson said family and friends planned to gather in the home cinema for a film and to remember Wayne.
A spokesperson for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said: “We again express our condolences to Mr Littlechild’s family and friends.
“Without commenting on the sad circumstances of Mr Littlechild’s death we should make it clear that every letter the Council sends about a licensing matter is checked and correspondence in relation to licensing must on occasion include legal references.
“There were concerns about the cattery that prompted licensing checks. The cattery continued operating after Mr Littlechild’s death, but following a meeting of the Licensing Committee in September the licence was revoked, coming into effect on 1 November.”
The Samaritans listening service is open 24 hours a day at telephone number 116 123 for anybody who is affected by similar issues.