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‘Devoted family man’ Craig Bourke from Ashford took his own life after Covid lockdown struggles

A devoted family man took his own life after becoming depressed during the Covid lockdowns and getting into financial difficulties.

Craig Bourke, 34, was tragically found dead by his wife Laura and 10-year-old son Teddy at their home in Charing Heath, near Ashford.

Craig and Laura Bourke, from Ashford, with their son Teddy
Craig and Laura Bourke, from Ashford, with their son Teddy

The plumber’s grief-stricken family describe Mr Bourke as a “hardworking” and “lovely person” who was a “really, really good dad”.

But they say the his inability to work during the pandemic led to a “spiral” of mental health and financial struggles.

An inquest into his death, which concluded last week, heard Mr Bourke owed friends and associates £70,000 and was also facing a £12,000 tax bill.

Speaking to KentOnline after the hearing, Mrs Bourke, 32, said her husband was used to being the “main breadwinner” – and struggled mentally when the Covid lockdowns meant he lost that role.

The couple had been together many years, meeting at a rave in Brixton when Mrs Bourke was 16 – before later being wed by an Elvis Presley impersonator in Las Vegas.

Laura Bourke, Craig’s wife, described him as a “really, really good dad”
Laura Bourke, Craig’s wife, described him as a “really, really good dad”

“We’ve just had quite a full, happy life,” she said.

“He was a really, really good dad. He took Teddy, our little boy, to football every weekend and they’d go off fishing for long weekends together.

“Fishing was their main thing but as soon as the weather started changing they’d be outside kicking a ball about until it got dark.”

Mrs Bourke says her husband’s money troubles started in the pandemic when she was out working long hours at Medway Maritime Hospital, while he stayed at home with their son.

“We sort of swapped roles,” the healthcare assistant said.

“He was looking after Teddy and doing all the homeschooling and I think mentally he really struggled with that because he was really hardworking and he liked to be out doing the work.

Laura and Craig met at a rave when she was just 16
Laura and Craig met at a rave when she was just 16

“Even though I was earning the money to bring home and support us I think he felt guilty that all the money was coming from me.

“I think that’s when he started borrowing money to feel like he was still contributing. Before he knew it, it got out of hand – and where he’d borrowed and couldn’t pay that back, he borrowed again to try and pay and it just sort of spiralled out of control.

“The pandemic just had a massive effect on him, mentally and financially.”

The inquest heard Mrs Bourke and Teddy made the devastating discovery after they arrived home from visiting a friend on March 7 to find themselves locked out.

After banging on the doors and windows and calling out to Mr Bourke to no response, the pair began to worry he had been involved in an accident.

Craig regularly took his son Teddy fishing
Craig regularly took his son Teddy fishing

Jumping into action, Mrs Bourke kicked down the door to their mobile home and raced in to find her husband.

As soon as they entered the property, they saw Mr Bourke slumped in the bathroom.

Sending her son to call 999, medically-trained Laura attempted to provide her husband with first aid, although she said: "As soon as I saw him I knew he was dead."

The inquest heard Mr Bourke was "a man's man" and his struggles with his mental health during the pandemic may have led to him developing substance abuse issues.

The hearing at County Hall in Maidstone last week was told Mr Bourke had spent the last year of his life in counselling.

But his death came as a shock to loved ones as he had been joking with his son over the phone just hours before the tragedy.

Craig and Laura were married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator
Craig and Laura were married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator

Mrs Bourke also described how the previous weekend the family had gone out for dinner to celebrate Teddy getting into his first choice of secondary school.

In addition to the lack of warning signs, Mr Bourke did not leave a note of any kind, leaving his family in the dark on his state of mind.

Describing the period before her husband’s death, Mrs Bourke said: “Everything changed with Covid. He’d always been the main breadwinner and he was much happier when he was going out and working.”

In recent years the couple had been working to launch their own equestrian business and had taken the step of purchasing a large plot of land for the project.

But the inquest heard Mrs Bourke had discovered evidence of her husband’s debts reaching £70,000 to friends and associates, and a tax bill of £12,000.

Craig Bourke died at his home in Ashford in March
Craig Bourke died at his home in Ashford in March

She also found out he had been hiding the fact he had lost his gas safety certification and was being investigated by the gas safety authority.

A statement read out by the coroner said police discovered following his death that the allegations the plumber faced from the gas authority were considerably less serious than he believed.

Mrs Bourke also found that her husband had been hiding a £398 fine for using his phone while driving.

It is believed that all these factors, in addition to relationship issues the couple were attempting to work through in counselling, contributed to Mr Bourke’s state of mind in the weeks before his death.

In her conclusion, coroner Sarah Clarke said: “It appears the downturn in Craig’s mental health was precipitated by the lockdown.”

Craig Bourke and his son Teddy, 10
Craig Bourke and his son Teddy, 10

She added that despite the lack of evidence as to his intention to die, she would rule Mr Bourke’s death a suicide.

She explained: “I can’t find another explanation as to why he did what he did, so I’m going to record a conclusion of suicide.

“There is evidence to suggest that he was struggling more than he let on.”

In an online obituary to Mr Bourke, his family describe him as “devoted” to his wife and son and having a “huge network of friends”.

“His absence has left a huge hole in our hearts,” it adds.

“He will be forever in our memories and never forgotten.

“His personality and character will always shine and will help us remember how lucky we were to have him for a short time on this earth, but a lifetime in our hearts.”

On Sunday a charity football match was played in Mr Bourke’s honour, with the money raised going to Winston's Wish, a charity supporting grieving children.

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans any time on 116 123.

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