No one could have guessed what was going on inside this seemingly fearless man (Picture: Will Castle)
It started as a Wednesday like any other.
I had my usual, daily chat with dad on the way to work where we spoke about a property deal we were looking at together. The numbers didn’t work, but he seemed desperate to make it happen.
I didn’t know then – in 2010 – that this would be the last time I ever spoke to him.
When I tried to call him, it rang out and went to voicemail. I started to worry.
I knew things were getting tricky after the financial crisis of the late 2000s, but I had no idea they were this bad.
I headed to Mayfair to look in some of the places he frequented, but Dad was nowhere to be seen.
Then I had an idea. He always parked in the same car park, so I went to see if his car was still there. It was.
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My battery was running low and the porter there knew me, so I asked him for my dad’s keys so I could get in the car and charge my phone.
I glanced around for any clues as to where he could be, but just saw his gym kit and golf clubs. I sat in the car listening to the radio while my phone charged.
Then the news came on: ‘Central Line suspended due to a person on the tracks at Bond Street station.’ Could it be him? No way. Dad wouldn’t even know where the Tube station was.
Thinking about it now sends chills down my spine (Picture: Will Castle)
I went to the station just so I could cross it off the list; the idea of suicide was still not in my head. Station staff instructed me to call the British Transport Police just to check it wasn’t him.
I’ll never forget the moment I made that call – I was on the corner of Grosvenor Square and Duke Street. It was pouring with rain so I was standing under a canopy.
Hearing the person at the other end of the phone confirm it was him and that he had died will stick with me forever. Thinking about it now sends chills down my spine.
It doesn’t help that I pass the spot where I made the call every day on my way to work. These are all constant reminders that I get on a daily basis but have learned to live with.
All the unanswered questions were exasperated by the fact there was no note (Picture: Will Castle)
While being interviewed by the police, they asked if I had any indication as to why he could have chosen to take his own life, and the honest answer was no. I didn’t have a clue.
He was so good at hiding it. No one could have guessed what was going on inside the head of this seemingly indestructible, fearless man. This is the case with so many suicides.
I ended up calling my uncle to ask him to tell everyone else – including my grandparents – as I didn’t have the courage to do so. I was numb and in complete shock.
My father’s death got a lot of press attention because he was a successful property entrepreneur who came from a very modest background but played polo with the then-Prince Charles – so it was on the front page of the Evening Standard.
Should I have picked up on his desperation during our call earlier on? (Picture: Will Castle)
As a result, I actually wore a balaclava home from work that night as I was worried that I would be recognised: ‘There’s the guy whose father went bankrupt and killed himself.’
In the aftermath of Dad’s passing, I went into autopilot and became so focussed on the mundane admin tasks ahead of me to deal with the bankruptcy.
The days leading up to the funeral dealt me with a plethora of emotions: shame, guilt, anger, loneliness, confusion. All the unanswered questions were exasperated by the fact there was no note.
I missed a call from him earlier in the day that he died, would he still be alive if I took it? Should I have picked up on his desperation during our call earlier on? Could I have stopped it? These are the questions that I now live with for the rest of my life – just like the millions of others impacted by suicide.
Hundreds turned up to the funeral – he was very loved (Picture: Will Castle)
Hundreds turned up to the funeral – he was very loved. I read my eulogy without shedding a tear, including talking about how amazingly loved he was.
I thought I was brave not showing emotion – how wrong I was. Brave would have been showing my vulnerability in front of all those people.
In the months since, I was a total mess. I went off the rails and was spiralling out of control to the point that my friends and family were extremely worried about me.
Then I met my wife, Simone, nine months after my dad passed and I immediately felt safe around her. To anyone else, I barely spoke about what happened, but I felt comfortable enough to open up to her within 10 minutes.
We got married in 2015 and my uncle – Dad’s brother, Jonathan – walked me down the aisle with my mum. Dad’s parents were also under the Chuppah with me as I got married.
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It was a beautiful day full of happiness, but there was a constant longing in my mind for my dad to be there. I know he would have loved Simone and would be constantly joking about how much I was punching.
Telling my two kids – Arthur, six, and Jack, two – about how their grandpa died is one of my biggest fears. How do you even begin to approach that and when?
I don’t have any of the answers and I struggle to comprehend what to do. I suppose I just have to take it each day at a time and I’m sure I will know when the time is right.
There is still so much stigma around suicide and I know they will have many questions that I won’t be able to answer – like why he was sad and why didn’t I help him. I don’t want to burden them with the pain, yet I am also desperate for them to know what an amazing man Granddad was.
I just have to take it each day at a time (Picture: Will Castle)
Knowing my wife and kids will never meet my dad is a constant regret, they would have loved each other so much.
I live with so many what ifs, and I still go through life every day wanting to call him to tell him something and remembering that I can’t.
Around the 10-year anniversary of Dad’s death – in 2020 – I wanted to grow a moustache while in lockdown, but my wife really wasn’t keen.
Then I found out about Movember, which is a charity that encourages men to grow a moustache to raise awareness of men’s health – especially mental health and suicide awareness.
It felt like a fitting thing to do in his memory – and my wife thankfully agreed. I posted about my dad’s story on social media and that’s when I started to realise the impact I could have.
If you’re a young person, or concerned about a young person, you can also contact PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide UK. Their HOPELINK digital support platform is open 24/7, or you can call 0800 068 4141, text 07860039967 or email: [email protected] between the hours of 9am and midnight.
Now – with the help of Movember – I am telling my story once more in the hope of saving a life. And I would definitely recommend others to get involved, too.
People always say to me: ‘Your dad would be so proud of what you’re doing’. Ironically, I don’t agree.
Dad was a stereotypical macho man. He didn’t believe in crying or showing vulnerability. I like to think that was all a front and behind it, he knew his struggles could have been helped by opening up.
Unfortunately for him, it was too late. But if I can help one person overcome their struggles, that will make it all worthwhile.
This November marks 20 years of Movember – the moustache that powered a men’s health movement. Find out more on their website here.
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Station staff instructed me to call the British Transport Police to check it wasn’t him.