When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Widower driven to suicide after burglary
IT is a photo of a blissfully happy couple who were quite simply deeply in love.
Their retirement was spent helping others – Bob Baker raised money for charities by running seven marathons while his wife Helen clocked up 27 years as a lollipop lady making sure children in her neighbourhood were safe.
But their life together was cruelly cut short when Mrs Baker died suddenly from cancer just days after she was diagnosed with the disease.
Mr Baker was so overcome with grief his health deteriorated and he was rushed into hospital by ambulance after suffering a stroke.
And it was while the 75-year-old was in hospital that burglars struck. They targeted the home he had shared with his beloved wife, leaving the vulnerable pensioner so scared he felt he could not face another day alone.
The grandad-of-two left a note for his family. It read: “After the break-in I just don’t feel comfortable in the house anymore, always listening for any noise. Sorry I have to end my life this way but I cannot see any other way so please forgive me.”
Just how frightened the heartbroken pensioner had become following the burglary was laid bare before an inquest into his death where his daughter Jo wept inconsolably as her father’s last tragic moments were heard.
Southampton Coroners Court heard Mr Baker, a former bus inspector who later worked as a chef for Shamblehurst Primary School, visited his GP Dr Abdul Hafeez following the burglary.
A report read to the court from the GP said he was "very unsettled" since losing his wife and "very upset about the break in of his property when articles of extreme emotional value were stolen".
Daughter Jo and her partner Mark Willis, who are expecting their first baby, told the Daily Echo how the devoted family man was devastated when he returned from hospital on May 11 this year to find criminals had ransacked his personal belongings.
They smashed Mrs Baker’s jewellery box and stole sentimental and irreplaceable jewellery belonging to his late wife, which reminded him of their 39 years of married bliss.
Mr Baker, who spent 11 years in the Army, worked as an assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme, regularly attended spinning classes into his 70s and even completed a tenmile race on his 70th birthday, became frightened to leave his home.
His family told how he slept with a knife next to his bed, had CCTV cameras installed and gave up his daily exercise because he did not feel safe.
On July 29 Jo, who never had the chance to tell her father she was pregnant, called at the family home in Hartington Road with Mark after her father failed to return calls.
They let themselves into the home and discovered the heartbreaking suicide note in the lounge and Mr Baker dead in bed – the same place his wife died months earlier.
He died of gas inhalation, the court heard.
Detective Sergeant Matt Taylor, who was called to the scene, said the loss of his wife and the burglary had a “profound effect” on Mr Baker, noting how there were many photographs of Helen around the house. He noted: “There is at least one picture in every room.”
Before delivering his verdict Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman spoke out to highlight the effect burglars have on their victims.
He said: “There is no doubt the breakin caused Mr Baker significant concern.
It is important to take the opportunity to publicise the devastating effect that break-ins have on people.
The effects on elderly people are considerable and I fear are never regarded by these people who persistently commit these offences.
“This may well have been the final straw as far as Mr Baker was concerned.”
Speaking for his partner Jo because she was too devastated to talk Mark, said: “I think the burglary was the tipping point. He used to enjoy going for walks each morning but after the burglary, and not feeling safe, these walks stopped for fear of what might happen whilst he was away.
“We want the sort of people who commit these crimes to understand what a devastating impact it can have on people’s lives.”