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Chislet baker Malcolm Collett died in car after taking life in Clowes Wood car park near Chestfield

By Chris Pragnell

A bereaved wife has told how her late husband spent years “living in a fantasy world” before he committed suicide in a secluded woodland car park.

Malcolm Collett, 54, lay dead in the driver’s seat of his car for several days with local dog walkers assuming he was asleep, his inquest heard.

In the boot was a generator and next to him lay a note which read: “To save time and resources I have taken my own life by choice.”

Brenda and Malcolm Collett with their dog Barney
Brenda and Malcolm Collett with their dog Barney

Grieving wife Brenda Donnelly, with whom Mr Collett ran a bakery producing dog food in Chislet near Canterbury, said he had a “good heart” but had had “difficulty knowing fact from fiction”.

Mrs Donnelly reported her husband missing on July 26 this year after he wrote on Facebook “Today’s the day I’m going to do this.”.

He was found dead in his Ford Mondeo in a car park off Radfall Road in Clowes Wood near Chestfield exactly a week later.

Mrs Donnelly said: “He was loved by those around him but he just couldn’t see that.

“He had this self destructive problem that ruined everything for him and for everybody around him.”

She told the inquest her husband had had problems with self-esteem that led him to lie continually.

“It caused a huge amount of problems, with friends, with family, with business contacts,” she said.

Kent Search and Rescue teams in Clowes Wood
Kent Search and Rescue teams in Clowes Wood

“It could be anything, from the smallest thing to huge things, he would simply lie. I think he convinced himself too.”

Weeks before Mr Collett’s death, Mrs Donnelly had discovered money missing from a joint account.

The couple, from Saddleton Road, Whitstable, had been temporarily living apart.

“I challenged him at work,” said Mrs Donnelly. “He didn’t really have an explanation. He just sat there. He didn’t say where he had spent the money.”

The couple eventually arranged to meet at a caravan where Mr Collett was staying.

On July 21 Mrs Donnelly arrived and Mr Collett handed her his valuables including a computer and a phone.

As he drove away she noticed he had a generator in the boot of his car.

“He said ‘you can have it when I’m finished with it’,” she told the hearing. “He had taken the generator before and said he was going to kill himself.

“Malcolm would threaten suicide at any confrontation.”

However, Mrs Donnelly said she grew concerned when he posted the Facebook message the following Saturday.

“I called the police then because this was the first time he’d said something like that in public. He hadn’t done that before.”

At the hearing coroner Judge Alan Blunsdon read a statement from Gwen Shelton, a dog walker who had seen Mr Collett’s car in the woodland car park.

“I noticed a man in the driver’s seat. He appeared to be asleep,” said the witness.

The inquest heard Mr Collett, who had a history of depression, had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mr Blunsdon recorded a verdict of suicide.

Mrs Donnelly said: “It’s a very difficult situation when somebody suffered as Malcolm did. Malcolm was two people.

“He was the public person but he was a different person in private. The tributes on Facebook from customers were tributes to this happy-go-lucky chap" - Brenda Donnelly

“He was the public person but he was a different person in private. The tributes on Facebook from customers were tributes to this happy-go-lucky chap.

“And he was that person – he would have done anything for anyone. But behind the scenes he was very different too. He couldn’t tell fact from fiction.

“But he had a good heart. I will miss him, as will his family and his friends.

"He felt unloved but that wasn’t the case. There were people that cared but I don’t think he realised.”

Mr Collett had no children but leaves behind a brother as well as his wife. Mrs Donnelly is continuing to run the couple’s business, Beach Dog Bakery.

If you would like confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 at any time.

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