An inquest has heard that a police dog handler who could no longer do the job he loved due to ill health following an earlier accident that he had had whilst on duty, was found hanged at his home in Leeds the day before he was due to return to work in another office-based role.
Wakefield Coroner’s Court was told that 37-year-old PC Mick Atkinson ‘dreaded’ the prospect of working in an office after spending more than 10-years as a dog handler with North Yorkshire Police.
PC Atkinson was found in the garage of his home in Oulton near Rothwell on October 7 2018.
He had been due to return to work the following day after a 17-month absence due to health problems.
Recording a verdict of suicide, assistant coroner Sarah Watson, said:
“It seems his job was his life, certainly being with the dogs and being outdoors.”
Reading a statement from PC Atkinson’s partner Kellie Taylor, Ms Watson said he joined the police aged 19 and became a dog handler around 12-years ago.
PC Atkinson suffered from arthritis in one of his knees as a result of an accident at work and his other knee also became affected.
He underwent a knee operation in April 2017, which was not successful and he did not return to work following the procedure.
The inquest heard that after the operation PC Atkinson’s police dogs were reallocated. This caused Mr Atkinson a great deal of upset.
Ms Taylor wrote in the statement:
“In the couple of weeks before he died he was not sleeping well and little things started to annoy him.
“I can’t really believe it has happened.
“We were really happy together with a new house and a young daughter.
“Obviously he could not see a way out, He had health and work issues. He was a wonderful man and will be sadly missed.”
PC Atkinson’s GP Dr R Halligan, who had seen him 3 days before he took his own life, wrote in a report read by coroner Ms Watson :
“He stated that the thought of being stuck in an office for the next 23-years filled him with dread and made him tearful.”
Dr Halligan said that in June 2017 , Mr Atkinson said he was “feeling stressed and in a low mood” after his police dogs had been taken from him.
The inquest heard police found that there were no suspicious circumstances in connection with Mr Atkinson’s tragic death.
Following the tragedy, Superintendent Mike Walker, of North Yorkshire Police, said:
“This is an utterly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the officer’s family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time.”
Chief Constable Lisa Winward added:
“Mick was a distinguished officer and had been part of the North Yorkshire Police family for 17 years.
“He started his service as PC in Scarborough and then moved into the Dog Support Unit and became a handler.
“He was a well-liked and much-respected member of the team and of our wider policing family and his loss will be felt profoundly.
“His death has come as a great shock to all of us and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time.”
PC Atkinson was also a step-father to two boys
A Crowdfunding page set up by Mr Atkinson’s friends in his memory has raised thousands of pounds for mental health charities.
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