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Inquest into death of former Kent speedway star Danny Ayres

The partner of former Kent speedway star Danny Ayres told an inquest into his death that the father-of-two had lived with 'demons'.

Suffolk coroners court had previously heard that the former Kent Kings rider had been found dead at his home by his partner Jodie Pledge on February 1.

Danny Ayres had been set to race for Ipswich Witches in the 2020 season
Danny Ayres had been set to race for Ipswich Witches in the 2020 season

The court in Ipswich was told the 33-year-old father-of-two was found hanged.

Mr Ayres had ridden for a number of teams including Mildenhall Fen Tigers, Cradley Heathens and Scunthorpe Scorpions. When racing in Kent he was based at the Sittingbourne Stadium at Murston.

Miss Pledge issued an emotional statement to coincide with the opening of the inquest todayhighlighting his mental health.

She said: "I feel our mental health system let Danny down time and time again. Mental health is not only about being depressed or suffering with anxiety, it’s so much more complex than that.

"Danny suffered with neither and he massively slipped through the net.

Danny Ayres for Kent Kings against Mildenhall Fen Tigers at Central Park in Sittingbourne. Picture: John Westhrop
Danny Ayres for Kent Kings against Mildenhall Fen Tigers at Central Park in Sittingbourne. Picture: John Westhrop

"He asked doctors for help as he just wanted to feel normal. He told them he couldn’t relax and that his mind and body could never switch off. He asked to be assessed for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as he recognised symptoms of his own over-active state.

“For me, it literally jumped out of the page that Danny suffered with something like that. He couldn't keep still. He was so hyperactive, impulsive and full on. Everything was just full throttle.

"That's what I absolutely adored and loved about him. It made him exceptionally talented on a bike. It was his strength with his career as a speedway rider. But it was his weakness off the track and, devastatingly mixed with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, it was his undoing."

She said his doctor had told him there was no such thing as ADHD in adults and diagnosed him as being dependant on drugs.

But Miss Pledge insisted: "He didn’t depend on them, he just struggled with normal life. By this, I mean when he was out of season and being a dad and partner, out of the limelight. It was a hard lifestyle adjustment for him.

Danny Ayres funeral
Danny Ayres funeral

"If he had received help with this off track when the season ended and offered either medication or therapy to help him accept himself and the way his brain worked I’m sure he would still be with us today. When he wasn't on the seat of a bike it was a struggle. Sometimes if he couldn’t relax or feel normal it would lead him to self-medicating."

She added: “It was devastating to watch the man I love rip himself to shreds with guilt because he had so much love and support in his life. I just want to be clear, Danny wasn’t an addict; he didn’t go near anything when he could focus his mind in season on his career."

She said as the result of her experiences she was training to become a life-coach to help others in similar situations.

"Sadly, I can't change that I've lost my soul mate and my daughters Lilou and Anaiya have lost their daddy. I don't want people relating to Danny with the negative stigma of drugs and alcohol as the doctors did. I would like people to see past all that because he was just a man suffering and trying to do the best he could to get by.

"We are all left broken-hearted. As his partner I will always feel I couldn’t save him from the demons in his head.

Danny Ayres' funeral
Danny Ayres' funeral

“It wasn’t Danny who made the decision to end his life; it was his demons in his head. It would have been impulsive and not of sound mind, a decision that he would never have made if he had been sober."

The funeral of the former Mildenhall Fen Tigers captain was held at Mildenhall Stadium in February when a hearse carrying his coffin took to the track with a 'guard' of speedway riders and 300 mourners.

Senior coroner Nigel Parsley returned the verdict of suicide.

*For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. If you want to talk to someone confidentially, click here.

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