Tragic Blackpool dad killed himself after being held at gunpoint and later sacked for chasing a shoplifter

A supermarket worker whose mental health fell into turmoil after being held at gunpoint killed himself one week after he was sacked for chasing a shoplifter.

Sunday, 11th August 2019, 7:00 pm
Staining dad Shaun Winstanley, 49, with his dog Benji. He killed himself on February 13, 2019 one week after being sacked from his job after chasing a shoplifter

Dad-of-three Shaun Winstanley, 49, ‘sorted out his affairs’ before suffocating himself at his Queen’s Drive home in Staining some time between February 11 and February 13.

Mr Winstanley had a history of mental health problems, which worsened after he was held at gunpoint during a robbery at Tesco Express, Highfield Road, where he worked, in May last year.

His stepdaughter Siobhan Winstanley, 28, said: “It is very raw, and very difficult for us to come to terms with.

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Staining dad Shaun Winstanley, 49

“He was of the very strong opinion that (suicide) was a selfish thing to do, so obviously it’s not something he would have done lightly, knowing he had children.

“It’s not something that’s actually sunk in. We feel maybe if we go into the Highfield Road shop he’s going to be there. But he’s not going to be there, because he’s not here any more.

“He had struggled with his mental health on and off, but from last year when this incident occurred he seems to have taken a fall downhill and there was just no coming back from that.”

An inquest at Blackpool Town Hall last week heard that Mr Winstanley was last seen by a neighbour around midday on February 11.

Staining dad Shaun Winstanley with his 15-year service award from Tesco

Two days earlier, he had confided in a friend that he was having suicidal thoughts since he had been sacked from his Tesco Express job, and his appeal against the decision had been thrown out.

He had worked for the supermarket giant for 17 years, and had won awards for his years of employment.

But in January he left his till to chase a shoplifter, and was fired.

Following his death, his family found his laptop containing a recording of a conversation he had with an occupational therapist provided by the supermarket.

Staining dad Shaun Winstanley, 49, with his dog Benji

Siobhan said: “He said he was struggling to sleep. He was very anxious. He was very depressed.

“He was struggling at work. He didn’t have a social life any more because it had taken him back that much.

“He said to the therapist ‘I’m suicidal’. He said ‘I have flashbacks and I lie there in bed at night and think about how I’m going to kill myself’.

“He sounded really defeated, just not himself, not the person we had grown up with.”

She said her dad was offered five counselling sessions by his employer following the traumatic robbery, and that he was transferred from the Highfield Road Tesco Express to shops in Bispham and Poulton.

However, he was not initially offered any time off work, said Siobhan, and was disciplined for missing three shifts following the crime.

“Seventeen years he gave them and when he needed them most they let him down. They didn’t offer him time off. They didn’t offer him anything.

“After 17 years, they sent him off without even a ‘bye’.”

On the night of February 13, one of Mr Winstanley’s friends became worried about him, as he had not seen him in several days.

He went to Mr Winstanley’s house, where he found the door locked, lights on, and his bichon frise dog, Benji, barking inside.

After knocking on the door and receiving no response, he called 999 and police forced entry to the property.

Det Con Carl Harris, who attended the scene, said: “I went through the hallway, which was clean and tidy, and went through the kitchen into the lounge area and saw Mr Winstanley on the floor close to the settee. He was face down, fully clothed.

“There were no signs of any disturbance and no signs of any injuries to Mr Winstanley’s body.

“On the dining table there was a large sum of cash.

“To the right of the dining table there was a low table, and on that low table there was items of paperwork related to utility companies and banking details, and on the desk there was an address book with names and telephone numbers in.

“I went into the kitchen. There was a phone on the side and next to the phone there was some information about kennels for dogs.”

He said it appeared that Mr Winstanley had ‘put his affairs in order’ before taking his own life.

Siobhan said she had written to Tesco about her father’s death, but was told the matter was closed.

She said: “I am angry at Tesco. We have got our father in an urn in our living room.

“I get up every morning and my dad is sat there. He was 49. I sit there every morning with my coffee and look at him and wonder maybe if things had been different he would still be here.

“I think there needs to be an awareness of mental health, and I think employers need to be doing right by their employees. The fact that Tesco won’t even speak with me is so upsetting.

“ I could try to take them to tribunal, but anything they could give me wouldn’t be good enough. It would be blood money. I don’t want money. I want my dad back.”

A spokesman for Tesco said: “The welfare and safety of our colleagues is of utmost importance to us and we were extremely sad to hear about the death of Mr Winstanley. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on individual circumstances relating to our colleagues.”

Dad was a thrillseeker and a huge fan of showbusiness

Siobhan said: “When I was younger he very much loved showbusiness and he was in the Blackpool Magicians Club. They had a big conference every year at the Winter Gardens and we used to go to that every year.

“He was very much a fan of the circus. He was part of a club within the Pleasure Beach for thrillseekers. He was a very outgoing person. He loved the thrill of shows, how they were developed it, how they put it together, how the music was written, how it all came together.

“The Pleasure Beach was always something he was passionate about. When we were younger he worked at the Hot Ice show and he made a few of the props, and he was so proud of that. We used to go and see the show every year and he would point them out.

“Anything that could put on a show for people and thrill them, he was very excited by.”

Shaun was ‘devastated’ by loss of job

Handing down a conclusion of suicide, coroner Clare Doherty said: “Mr Winstanley died of suffocation. The evidence indicates only a low level of anti-depressants in his body at the time of death. The level found would not cause any confusion of the mind.

“At the scene, the deceased left some money, a diary and some name and address information. He left his mobile phone, although it was PIN coded and could not be accessed. He also left information about boarding kennels for his dog.

“There was some evidence of organisation by Mr Winstanley and that he was thinking forward following his death.

“A friend spoke with Mr Winstanley on February 8 and he expressed thoughts of self harm.

“It seems to tie in with the fact that he had appealed the loss of his job and he had not been successful in that appeal on that day, It was apparent that his employment was not going to be restored and he was devastated by that. He was an employee for 17 tears and had won an award in the past for being a good employee. His family tells me he was very dedicated.

“Mr Winstanley had suffered a marked mental deterioration last summer while at work he had witnessed at armed robbery. He was very affected by it and he had counselling from his employer and help from another agency called Supporting Minds.

“It does appear that he had fragile mental health and these events have caused a deterioration.

“Although there is no note, I’m satisfied that he intended to take his own life, not only from the evidence of his mental state and how he was feeling, but also the method that was used, the element of organisation, and the evidence from police that there doesn’t appear to be anyone else involved.”