Great-grandad took own life after he 'couldn't cope' with toddler's death, family say

By Kit Roberts

A great-grandfather took his own life after struggling with the tragedy of a little girl’s death, his heartbroken family say.

Peter Nicklin, 79, “couldn’t cope” since Harper-Lee, 2, passed away in May from injuries she suffered after swallowing a button battery.

Now, Peter’s son, Harper-Lee’s grandad Darren Nicklin, said his father just wasn’t himself after the toddler’s death, adding there had been a big change in him.

He had been unable to attend her funeral, telling his family it “would finish him off”, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.

“He loved life. He loved it,” said Darren. “We never thought he’d have it in him.

“You saw the change in him. He went from happy-go-lucky, one of the lads, to he just wasn’t himself. We can’t believe he’s done it.

Peter Nicklin, left, died aged 79 (Stoke Sentinel/Submitted)

“He just changed when our Harper passed. He couldn’t cope with it.

“People that age, they can’t cope with losing youngsters, they can’t cope. The day after he said ‘why didn’t they take me instead of her?’ He just couldn’t cope with it.

“We were getting a bit of normality, focusing. He just wouldn’t talk about it. I think he bottled everything up. We’re devastated.

“I think he was thinking about it all the time. He stopped going down to the allotment. He was just sitting in the house.

“I think it just kept running through his head.”

Peter died on August 15 at his home in Ogden Road, Hanley, just over a week short of three months after Harper-Lee died.

An inquest has now been opened into his death. Friday's hearing heard he had been found hanged.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, Peter left school and went on to do a variety of jobs, including working for bricklayers and on the motorways.

Peter Nicklin was described as 'happy go lucky' (Stoke Sentinel/Submitted)

He was a family man, who was deeply proud of his three children Darren, Carl, and Claire, as well as his wife Pauline, who he survived.

Described by Darren as ‘happy-go-lucky’, Peter was well known around Hanley at the Wetherspoons and the Coachmaker’s, where he once met Gordon Banks when the famous footballer came in to support the pub.

“He loved all his grandkids. He was very family oriented my dad,” said Darren.

“He mellowed as he got older, especially with the grandkids, because we had a fairly strict upbringing, but he mellowed over the years.

“He was one of the lads. A hard worker. They knew him round Hanley as ‘The Beard’ because he’d got a big beard.

A button battery (File image) (Stoke Sentinel)

“He was a character. He was well known up Hanley in the Coachmaker's and Wetherspoons.”

In his later years, Peter was passionate about his allotment, having a patch on the site near Joiners Square where he could often be found attending to the wide variety of fruit and veg he would grow.

“If we could have got him a bed down there he’d have stayed down there at night I think,” said Darren.

“The allotment was his life. He’s had that 10 years. He loved his allotment.

“Everybody had veg off him. Taters, carrots, green beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce cauliflowers. If it was veg he’d grow it. He loved it.

“He used to always get second place, and he used to always say ‘same every year, I’ll get first next time’, and he never got there.”

Since Harper-Lee’s tragic death, her mum Stacey, along with StokeonTrentLive, The Sentinel and local MP Jo Gideon, have been campaigning for new laws to protect children from the dangers of button batteries.

Earlier in the summer Mrs Gideon introduced a Bill in the Commons, dubbed ‘Harper-Lee’s Law’, which is due to be debated later in the year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg have both sent their condolences to Harper-Lee’s family, while more than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging the government to take action to help prevent future deaths from button batteries.

The petition can be viewed here.

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