Sheila’s kids were taken away for a crime she didn’t commit. Months later she was dead.

mother custody suicide

Warning: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers. 

An inquest into the death of a mum-of-four from the UK has found she struggled after losing custody of her children and being wrongly accused of having sex with an underage boy.

At the time of her death, Sheila Griffin, from Rochdale in Greater Manchester, had been acquitted of the charges by a jury. Despite this, three of her four children had already moved in with their father and she had to fight him for contact.

An inquest heard the 36-year-old support worker was found dead in bed by her grandmother after battling depression.

Before her death on October 15 last year, Griffin had complained about being let down by the system and she had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital saying she had “to get help to face her demons that she just couldn’t fight alone”.

Just two days before she suicided, Griffin had been trying to arrange a visit to see her children at their home in Edinburgh.

Griffin and her husband of 18 years, Chris, split up after she was accused of sexual activity with a child in 2012. She was found not guilty in 2014.

Advertisement

Her grandmother Sheila Noakes told the Heywood hearing: "Sheila was a bubbly but passive person and had difficulties sticking up for herself."

Noakes explained that when Chris was granted full custody of the children, Sheila began to drink and take painkillers.

"After that Sheila had difficulties maintaining contact with the children. Chris made it really hard for her. The most obvious trigger was when she had contact with her ex husband and she would go on a real downer."

Noakes told the inquest that Sheila couldn't talk about the allegations and wouldn't allow anyone to discuss them. She said her granddaughter was very good at hiding how she was feeling.

"She loved her children very much, it was heartbreaking for her family and friends to see her trying to cope without having her children around her. She is very much missed by all of the family."

Griffin's mother Debbie Brown told the hearing: "The serious allegation made in relation to Sheila had a profound effect over the two years whilst criminal proceedings were on going. She was found not guilty but during this time there was arrangements made in relation to custody of Sheila's children."

Griffin first started showing signs of depression as a teenager and suffered post-natal depression after the birth of all four of her children. After a work accident in 2008 in which she fractured her skull, Sheila also struggled with an addiction to painkillers.

"I'm devastated and heartbroken over the loss of Sheila. I feel she was let down many times she and the family were screaming for help but I feel we were not listened to. She was a good mum, a lovely person and loved her children very much. She tried to fight for her children every day," Brown said.

mother custody suicide

At the hearing Dr David Rimmer, a consultant psychiatrist at the John Elliott unit of Birch Hill Hospital said "there's only so much mental health services can do" when there's an ongoing risk of someone harming themselves.

"I was aware of the criminal allegation and I know it was a major upset and a major trauma," Dr Rimmer said. "The problem we have is we can be aware of things but what can we do about them? She didn't like talking about it in a way that possibly some form of counselling might have helped."

At the end of the hearing the assistant coroner, Peter Sigee, ruled that Griffin died from suicide, adding: "Please let me express my condolences and sympathies to all family and friends. I hope it may prove to be a stepping stone on the road to coming to terms with her death".

If this post brought up any issues for you, or you just feel like you need someone to talk to after reading it, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time. 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
FROM OUR NETWORK