David Rathband's wife speaks of husband's affair at inquest into his death

PC David Rathband's wife spoke yesterday of her husband's affair with London bomb survivor Lisa French at the inquest into his death

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire The ex-wife of PC David Rathband, Kath Rathband, after giving evidence at the inquest into his death
The ex-wife of PC David Rathband, Kath Rathband, after giving evidence at the inquest into his death

The wife of PC David Rathband has told for the first time how their marriage ended when he had an affair with 7/7 bomb survivor Lisa French.

Speaking at the first day of an inquest into the death of the Northumbria Police officer, who was shot and blinded by Raoul Moat, Kath Rathband has told of her husband’s infidelity and his disturbing state of mind in the months before he died.

PC Rathband was found dead in his Blyth home on the night of Wednesday, February 29, 2012. He was 44.

Giving evidence at Newcastle’s Moot Hall yesterday, Mrs Rathband told Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong how she couldn’t forgive David for his affair, but continued to support him.

She said: “Having learned the full extent of David’s relationship with Lisa French I was utterly devastated. I felt this was the end of our relationship. Throughout our marriage David has had affairs with other women, which I have always forgiven and taken him back.”

The hearing heard how concerns over PC Rathband’s state of mind were raised during the final weeks of his life, while he was visiting his twin Darren in Australia.

Towards the end of the trip David posted a series of disturbing tweets on Twitter, one which said “RIP David Rathband.”

He also bombarded Kath with abusive phone calls, and in one pretended to be a police officer informing her he was dead.

It was agreed that Insp John Heckles, the Northumbria Police officer responsible for David’s welfare, should meet him at the airport when he returned home on Monday, February 27.

Insp Heckles told the hearing that David was in good spirits when he arrived back in Newcastle.

He said: “Although he was fatigued from his journey he was in good spirits. He showed me a didgeridoo he had purchased for his children. He did not seem depressed.”

When Insp Heckles took PC Rathband home, Lisa French was there. The officer arranged to return to his Blyth house at 2pm the following day for a welfare meeting.

However, when he arrived at the agreed time the PC Rathband told him he was ‘extremely tired’ and asked if the meeting could be postponed until Thursday, March 1.

Insp Heckles then visited Kath to discuss her concerns about him and his future care.

Ms French also gave evidence yesterday and told the coroner that David had confided in her that he had had suicidal thoughts throughout the six months she had known him.

She said: “David had spoken of taking his own life on a number of occasions. I never considered it to be a cry for help.”

On the morning of Wednesday, February 29 Ms French, an HR professional, visited David at home. She saw that he had moved a stool from the kitchen to the landing and he confided that he had put a belt around his neck the night before, but couldn’t go through with killing himself.

Mrs Rathband told the coroner that when she visited her husband that night he told her he still loved her, but asked her to leave when she didn’t want to talk about repairing their marriage.

And the inquest heard that when Kath got back to her family home she received a disturbing telephone call from David.

Kath said: “He rang me once he got home, he said he loved me and that I wouldn’t see him again.”

The mother-of-two was so concerned about PC Rathband she called Insp Heckles, who was on a rest day. When he did not answer she left a voicemail.

Kath also texted PC Rathband’s older sister Debbie Essery in Stafford saying she did not think he should be left alone and asked her to come and get him.

Debbie told the coroner that after receiving the worrying messages from her sister-in-law she sent a Facebook message to Det Cons Alison Brown who had been David’s liaison officer after he was injured.

DC Brown told Mrs Essery she would inform the control room.

Meanwhile, Insp Heckles realised he had missed calls from both Mrs Rathband and a colleague, Insp Dave Guthrie. It was agreed that officers should attend David’s home and Insp Heckles would go with him.

After getting no response at the door police broke into the three-storey town house. Insp Heckles entered the home with Insp Guthrie and another officer, Sgt Philip Patterson.

“As we approached the first floor landing I could see David was hanging,” said Insp Heckles.

Paramedics tried to revive David, but nothing could be done.

Insp Heckles said: “I informed Kath David had passed away. Kath was distraught.” He added: “I took the role very seriously and cared about David’s welfare.

“I did not hear the missed calls to my mobile telephone that evening. I was downstairs, I believe my telephone may have been on charge in my bedroom. Having seen the missed calls I immediately reacted to them.”

The inquest continues.

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