A family has been rocked by a double tragedy after a great-granddad killed himself following the devastating loss of his two-year-old granddaughter.
Peter Nicklin, 79, had struggled to cope with the death of Harper-Lee Fanthorpe, who died earlier this year after swallowing a remote-control battery.
Peter’s son Darren – Harper-Lee’s granddad – said Peter wasn’t able to attend the toddler’s funeral after she died in May, as he’d told his family it would “finish him off” after she had swallowed the button battery.
“He loved life. He loved it,” said Darren. “We never thought he’d have it in him.
“You saw the change in him. He went from happy-go-lucky, one of the lads, to he just wasn’t himself. We can’t believe he’s done it.
“He just changed when our Harper passed. He couldn’t cope with it.
“People that age, they can’t cope with losing youngsters, they can’t cope. The day after, he said, ‘Why didn’t they take me instead of her?’ He just couldn’t cope with it.”
Darren said the latest devastating twist came just as the rest of the family was beginning to get over the awful death of Harper-Lee, reported Stoke Sentinel.
“We were getting a bit of normality, focusing,” he said. “He just wouldn’t talk about it. I think he bottled everything up. We’re devastated.
“I think he was thinking about it all the time. He stopped going down to the allotment. He was just sitting in the house.
“I think it just kept running through his head.”
Peter died on August 15 at his home in Hanley, Staffordshire. An inquest has now been opened, and Friday’s hearing heard he had been found hanged.
Born in Stoke, Peter had worked for bricklayers and on the motorways.
He was well known around some of his local pubs, and once met World Cup footie hero Gordon Banks when the legend visited one of them.
He survived his wife Pauline, as well as Darren and his other two children, Carl and Claire.
“He loved all his grandkids. He was very family-oriented,” said Darren.
“He mellowed as he got older, especially with the grandkids, because we had a fairly strict upbringing, but he mellowed over the years.
“He was one of the lads. A hard worker. They knew him round Hanley as ‘The Beard’. He was a character. He was well known up Hanley in the Coachmaker’s and Wetherspoon’s.”
In his later years, Peter was passionate about his allotment, having a patch where he could often be found attending to the wide variety of fruit and veg he would grow.
“If we could have got him a bed down there he’d have stayed down there at night I think,” said Darren.
Stacey-Marie Nicklin, Harper-Lee's mum, is campaigning against button batteries to prevent any further tragedies similar to her daughter’s, and she’s being supported in her efforts by local MP Jo Gideon.
Over the summer, the MP introduced a “Harper-Lee’s Law” bill to parliament, which is due to be debated later in the year.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging the government to take action to help prevent future deaths from button batteries.
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