Depressed Shropshire farmer died on train track

Bridgnorth | News | Published:

One of Shropshire's best-known dairy farmers who died after being hit by a train in Shropshire had told his GP of "stress with farming", an inquest heard.

Semi-retired Herbert John Michael Batkin died of head injuries after being struck by a train travelling at 75mph near to Prees Railway Station.

The 73-year-old, known as Mike, had his guns taken away by police after his GP became concerned about his depression two days before his death.

Mr Batkin had written a note to his family a while before his death "in case anything happened to him," the hearing was told.

It was the second inquest in a week to hear that a Shropshire farmer had committed suicide after being driven to depression by the industry.

David Fletcher, 59, took his own life with a double-barrelled shotgun at Herons Gate Farm in Enville, near Bridgnorth in July 10.

Senior figures in the farming industry have warned farmers were being pushed to breaking point by financial pressures.

And farmers are almost three times as likely to commit suicide as the average citizen, according to the Farming Community Network.

Mr Batkin, who farmed at Bank Farm, Prees, and New House Farm, Marchamley, before moving to Church Street, Prees, was found dead 825 metres from Prees Railway Station on August 1.


Dr Martin Sullivan at Richmond House Surgery in Whitchurch said in a statement he had spent half an hour with Mr Batkin on July 30 in which he asked for a higher dose and a longer course of sleeping pills.

Dr Sullivan's statement said Mr Batkin was worried about the farm.

Mr Batkin had "a long history of depression and noted stress with farming", the doctor's statement added.

"He explained he wrote a note in case anything happened to him, the implication being that he might try to harm himself. He said the note was just in case and he had written it a while ago."


He said Mr Batkin was planning the future and agreed to go back for a review in one week.

"I explained I needed to contact the police to remove his firearms," he said. "I called the police and arranged for the guns to be removed and I called the crisis team and asked them to support him."

At about 2am on August 1, Mr Batkin's wife Dorothy heard him get up which was not unusual but she did not hear him return.

John Ellery, coroner for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, recorded a verdict of suicide.

Although semi-retired, Mr Batkin was still carrying out day-to-day tasks on the farm including milking the cows.

Mr Batkin's son, Kevin, said following the inquest: "Farming was just one of his worries. It is a stressful job. The industry is under quite a lot of pressure business-wise and the hours we have to do are long.

"You can't just switch off and you don't finish at 5pm. But in my father's case he was semi retired so he was winding down really. The farm was just one of the many things he worried about."

As a boy Mr Batkin attended school at Cloverley Hall, Market Drayton, before joining his family's farming business with his wife Dorothy. He had four children, Christopher, Roger, Kevin and the late Elizabeth, and 13 grandchildren.

He was also a keen sportsman, serving as president of Prees Cricket and Recreation Club and for many years played cricket and bowls for the village teams. He also played golf at Hawkstone Park and Hill Valley Golf Clubs.

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