Couple’s car exploded in flames in suicide pact

A couple whose bodies were found in a burnt out car in Co Antrim died in a suicide pact, a coroner said yesterday.

The remains of Cyril and Phyllis Gardner, both in their 50s, were found inside their Ford Focus, which had exploded into flames in a field at Green Rd, Lisburn in Sept 2011.

The front seats had been fully reclined and a gas stove was found in the back.

An inquest at Belfast’s Old Town Hall heard how the couple from Carnbane Road in the village of Ravernet, had been struggling in the months leading up to their deaths.

Mr Gardner, a digger driver, had battled an alcohol addiction and may have been suffering from cancer, though he had declined to have symptoms investigated. Mrs Gardner, a school dinner lady and bus supervisor, was being treated for depression and had been on weekend release from a psychiatric unit at Lagan Valley Hospital when she died.

“This is a dreadfully sad case. Cyril and Phyllis Gardner died by their own act in what can only be described as a suicide pact... Death was due to a car fire, but I will also record intentional self-harm committed while the balance of both parties minds were upset,” said coroner James Kitson.

Mrs Gardner’s body was in the driver’s seat, with her husband alongside.

A PSNI detective said there was nothing to indicate anybody had approached or left the vehicle which was parked in a remote location away from view of the road. Det Insp Neil McGuinness said the couple had entered another field, but were disturbed by a farmer.

The court heard how Mr Gardner, who had been losing weight and drinking heavily in the weeks prior to his death, had spoken of suicide plans during a drunken telephone call to a lifelong friend two weeks before his death.


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