Farmers’ suicides ‘linked to outbreaks’

A coroner has linked the suicides of two farmers with the pressures of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

And in a third inquest in Welshpool on Thursday, he said that the suicide of another farmer was as a result of the BSE crisis causing him to suffer a breakdown.

The court was told that the deaths of John Bayliss, 56, and Glyn Lewis, 59, and Brian Oakley, 54, happened within a month of each other.

“What has been a crisis for the farming industry has been a catastrophe for the family’s of the three decent men,” Coroner John Hollis said.

“It’s to be hoped that the farming organisations will find someway to reach out to the farming community and to support them.”

John Bayliss died from a single gunshot wound to the head on 2 April, six weeks after the first case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed in Wales.

His body was found dead at his family’s Borfa Wen Farm in Kerry, Newtown, on 2 April.

The farm was free of the disease, but D Notice movement restrictions had been placed on the site on the same day Mr Bayliss was given clearance to move stock.

Mr Hollis added: “Clearly, the D Notice must have affected Mr Bayliss.

“This may have caused Mr Bayliss to do what he did.”

Mr Bayliss’s wife, Rita, said: “He had a licence from the Ministry to move the animals, then the D Notice was slapped on the same day.

“There were animals everywhere. They were dirty and wet and couldn’t be moved.”

Just a few weeks later, on 21 April, Glyn Lewis, who farmed 90 acres at Llwyn-y-Maes near Llanfyllin, hanged himself with a chain.

Gun threat

Mr Lewis’s haulage business was also damaged as a result of the outbreak.

On the morning he died, he had threatened to shot himself but a friend took the gun away from him, the inquest heard.

Just minutes later he hanged himself with the chain in a cow shed.

During a third hearing, the court heard that Brian Oakley took his life after having to deal with farming pressures while suffering a 20-year depression.

He suffered a breakdown in the 1990s which was brought on by falling prices during the BSE crisis.

His family was forced to sell their 270-acre farm for a smaller business at Llanfechain, mid Wales.

The deaths were raised at the Welsh Assembly by Welsh Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Mick Bates.

“During this foot-and-mouth crisis three farmers’ lives were tragically lost inMontgomeryshire,” he said.

“A House of Lords report states that suicide is one of the most likely causes of death among older farmers.”

He said the Institute of Rural Health in Montgomeryshire has recorded in its recent report a 400% increase in pleas for help from rural dwellers.

Of the 92 confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in Wales, 54 are in Powys.