Shropshire MP Owen Paterson ‘still struggling’ after loss of his wife Rose

This weekend’s Grand National will be “painful” for North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson and his family after the death of his wife and Aintree chairman Rose.

Owen and Rose Paterson
Owen and Rose Paterson

Mr Paterson said he was still coming to terms with his wife’s death on the eve of the first running of the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters’ Chase at the three-day festival.

Rose, who took her own life last year, would spend months planning the world’s best known race – and the Rose Paterson Trust will be launched by her family at the racecourse on Saturday.

Mr Paterson said he was still struggling with the “anguish and misery” her death had caused – but said if the trust can help just one family deal with the trauma of suicide, he will be satisfied.

He said: “We have had a huge amount of messages from across the racing world since Rose’s death and the reaction has been remarkable.

“We, as a family, were completely unprepared for this as are so many in this position and it is very hard to describe the anguish and misery it has caused.

“If anybody is watching this who feels a little anxious or a little worried, please talk. Please, please talk to a friend or relation because the damage you do when you take your own life is absolutely terrible.

Rose Paterson

“That is why we, as a family, thought that we would like to set up a trust and try and do something.

“Our message is very simple. If we can come together and work to stop just one person, help just one family from going through what we are going through then we will have done some good.

“The National is going to be painful. She would be going to Aintree every day in the months and weeks building up. She was incredibly popular with everyone who worked there.”

Mr Paterson said Rose was becoming one of the major players in the racing world – not just through her role at Aintree, but also more widely with the Jockey Club and introducing new welfare measures.

“We have had some wonderful messages from them and then she was becoming a major figure in racing,” he said. “She was a member of the Jockey Club, she was involved in the welfare side, she was in a very strong position to do that because she had a real feeling and affinity for horses.

“She had lovely hands, I never saw her catch a horse in its mouth. Going into stables she was always the one who saw mud rash first, horses all went to her.

“She was always so well placed to help the Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Authority to develop new policy on horse welfare and it is just tragic that all this has been thrown away.

Owen and Rose Paterson at the Whitchurch Civic Centre during the 2010 election

“I would like to thank all those in racing and wish Nicholas Wrigley, the incoming chairman of Aintree in really difficult circumstances all the best – his family have been marvellous.”

Mr Paterson said it was thanks to Mr Wrigley that the trust would be launched this weekend.

Reflecting on her death, Mr Paterson said he doesn’t think he will ever come to terms with it. “We will never know definitively why she did it,” he said.

“We have been beginning to come to grips with how this impulse came. It’s like a heart attack on the brain or a snakebite. But the message to get across is it is nine months on and we are all still completely traumatised and I do not see this going away.

“People kindly say time is a healer. There is no sign of healing. What happens with suicide is that in a terrible moment of crisis, there is a catastrophically permanent solution taken by that person that has huge ramifications.

“I have spoken to academics and specialists and people working in charities who have all been extremely kind as I have come blundering into this world, learning about it really first hand.

Rose Paterson

“The figures are shocking. Some 135 people, it is estimated, are affected by every single person who takes their own life. That is an enormous impact. This isn’t days or weeks – it goes on for years.

“I hope by speaking I am waking someone up. If she knew an inkling of the impact of this.

“She was the kindest, most generous person I have ever met – but this huge vast network of friends and contacts she has affected – if she had realised that I really think she would have thought twice.

“How on earth didn’t we notice? It seems extraordinary.

“If you are feeling anxious or down please talk to someone. A colleague, a friend, a relative, go to your doctor.

“Don’t bottle it up, don’t take this terrible step, because there’s no coming back. Everything else is solvable.”

  • If you have been affected by this article, Samaritans can be contacted for free on 116 123.

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