Death of RSPCA critic is ruled a suicide
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2013: (Actually published on November 20, 2013.)
Dawn Aubrey-Ward, 43, hanged herself on May 8, 2013 in her home in Martock, Somerset, U.K., coroner Tony Williams ruled on October 14, 2013. A Royal SPCA animal welfare officer from 2008 to 2010, Aubrey-Ward was among the three named sources for allegations published by Nick Craven and Lynne Wallis of The Daily Mail on December 29, 2012 that the RSPCA unnecessarily kills animals and inappropriately pursues prosecutions. The RSPCA countered that, “Dawn Aubrey-Ward is a disgruntled former employee who was subject to a disciplinary investigation for alleged theft of animals,” who “left with matters still pending.” Wrote Luke Sakald of The Daily Mail, “While details were not heard in the inquest, it was reported that Miss Aubrey-Ward was rebuked for refusing to issue a formal ‘caution’ to a devastated pensioner whose cat had contracted emphysema and was dying in his lap. She was also allegedly reprimanded for the theft of a tortoise, which she claimed to have taken home for safekeeping.” Wrote Guy Adams of The Daily Mail, “Over the days that followed [publication of her criticisms of the RSPCA], Aubrey-Ward went on to endure a torrent of abuse on Twitter and Facebook, telling friends that she was struggling to cope with the tide of hate mail, death threats, and abusive telephone calls. On her own Twitter feed, she claimed that the RSPCA had ‘ruined my life.’” Aubrey-Ward and her two youngest of four children later moved into the home of former police officer Rob Colclough, 44, who on October 7, 2011 committed suicide after a bout with depression. Continued Daily Mail writer Sakald, “The inquest heard that [on the day of her death] Aubrey-Ward’s car broke down. She called her daughter from her first marriage, Aimee Redfern-Ward, and asked her to pick up her two younger daughters from school. Meanwhile a friend gave her a lift home. When Aimee arrived at the house with her two half-sisters, she discovered her mother’s body. Community mental health nurse Dee Holbourne said Aubrey-Ward was struggling with bereavement, her finances, alcohol issues, and a lack of sleep and appetite. She also thought Aubrey-Ward might have been suffering from bi-polar disorder.” Adams of The Daily Mail noted that several other people have committed suicide in recent years after public conflicts with the RSPCA, including pig farmer Stephen Brown, 52, of Norfolk, who shot himself in February 2012. Brown came under investigation by the RSPCA, Vanessa Allen and Nick Craven of The Daily Mail reported earlier, after “An undercover animal rights activist secretly filmed a worker on his Norfolk farm beating a pig to death with an iron bar, kicking piglets and smashing a live animal’s head on a concrete floor.” Believed to have killed himself, though remains have not been found, was horse breeder Clwyd Davies, 69, of Wrexham, who was last seen on April 7, 2013, two days after he was sentenced for severely neglecting six horses. Pleading guilty to the six counts of neglect in October 2012, after having initially been charged with 18 counts, Davies was in January 2013 profiled as “The Horse Hoarder” in a BBC 4 documentary. Other suicides linked to RSPCA investigations were those of Cumbria pony breeder Alan Brough, whose animals were impounded in 2010; gamekeeper Graham Key, who took strychinine in a jail cell after he was convicted of firearms offences in 2008 as result of an RSPCA raid on his home; and Cornish farmer Richard Barrett, whose 2008 death the day after the RSPCA visited his property was called a suicide by police but left open as to cause by the coroner. Also in 2008, Adams remembered, former RSPCA inspector Dimity Crowley “was paid £30,000 by the charity after saying she was driven to attempt suicide by ‘bullying’ and ‘sexual harassment.’” Crowley left the RSPCA in 2006, two years after the suicide attempt. At least nine U.S. cruelty case defendants and 15 humane workers are known to have committed suicide during the same 10-year time frame as the six cases linked to the RSPCA.