The family of a man who killed himself after being encouraged to do so by a Peterborough woman have paid tribute to their ‘thoughtful and sensitive’ son - and urged people thinking of suicide to speak to family or friends about their feelings.
Within hours of coming into contact with Matthew Birkinshaw on an internet forum, Natasha Gordon of Paston Ridings, Paston, in Peterborough, had arranged to meet him the next day – claiming she would take her own life at the same time as him.
On December 17 2015 the pair travelled together to Rutland Water where only 31-year-old Matthew, from Walsall, went ahead with the pact.
Gordon denied encouraging Matthew to commit suicide but was found guilty of the charge on Friday (1 December) following a six day trial at Leicester Crown Court.
After the verdict was delivered, Matthew’s parents said: “It is impossible to put into words the effect the loss of Matthew has had on our family. He was everything to us and he has left a space no-one else can ever fill. We miss him every day and struggle to picture a life without him in it. We know nothing will ever be the same for us and the weight of that grief is heavy to bear.
“Matthew was our younger son. He was thoughtful, sensitive, generous and compassionate with a brilliant sense of humour and a big heart. His bellowing laugh was something we’ll always remember. He lived with us for most of his life and we saw him every day. We were a tight family of four and Matt shared everything with us, Christmases, birthdays, holidays, losses and grief, good times and bad. We were always there for each other. He was loved by all his family and many friends who knew what a truly special person he was.
“It has become clear to us during this process how many people consider suicide without ever displaying any signs even to those closest to them. It has been heartbreaking to hear how when Matt needed kindness and support, he met someone who wanted to do him harm.
“Can we send this message to anyone else who may be struggling with these feelings; there are people you can speak to who have your best interests at heart. If not a family member or close friend, then one of the agencies out there who can offer support. If you try to face this alone, you become more vulnerable, as our son was. There are people who love you and would be devastated by your loss. If this message averts one tragedy, it will mean that something positive has come out of the death of such a beautiful and much-loved son.
“It has been the longest, hardest, saddest and most traumatic two years of our lives. We know we must try not to dwell on the future our son will never have and the grandchildren we will never see, but to accept what has happened without hatred and to stand by Matthew with dignity and love. We are just an ordinary family who has found itself in extraordinary circumstances and we ask please now this trial is over, to be allowed space to grieve for our son in privacy.
“Finally we would like to thank the prosecution team and particularly the Leicestershire Police for their hard work in bringing this case to court and for the sensitivity of their support throughout this very difficult process.”
The court heard how, after arriving at Rutland Water, Gordon had sent her partner a message informing him of plans to end her life. He subsequently raised the alarm with police and officers were sent to locate her in Rutland.
However, Gordon had left Matthew to go through with the pact and failed to tell police about him when they arrived at the scene.
It was only after she was returned home to Peterborough that Gordon disclosed how she had travelled to the area to commit suicide alongside another man and officers returned to Rutland where Matthew was found.
Detective Constable Michelle Preston, who helped lead the investigation, said: “Matthew Birkinshaw was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him and Gordon was a woman who quickly gained his trust by exploiting his vulnerability.
“What became clear during the course of our investigation was that Gordon had tried to encourage others to take their own life. And we found evidence that she was attempting to engage two people in conversation about suicide shortly after being located by police in Rutland.
“The death of a young man in such circumstances is tragic, but Gordon’s blatant disregard for Matthew’s welfare that day is what has made this case even more distressing for all involved.
“Matthew’s family are still coming to terms with the loss of their beloved son and have dealt with what has happened with nothing but dignity.
“I know I speak as not only the investigating officer, but on behalf of the family, when I urge anyone who may be in crisis to reach out to someone – if that isn’t a friend or a family member, there are specialist organisations who can provide the support or counsel you might need at that moment in time.”
Support services are available through a number of organisations, including: -
National charity Samaritans – by calling 116123 or visiting https://www.samaritans.org/
PAPYRUS – prevention of young suicide – by calling 0800 068 4141 or visiting https://www.papyrus-uk.org/
SOBS (Survivors of bereavement by suicide) – by visiting https://uksobs.org/