Retired Devizes policeman drafted suicidal text messages hours before death

Bill Dowling

Victoria Rose

First published in News
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The night before retired police inspector Bill Dowling was found dead in his porch with his former partner Victoria Rose he drafted text messages to her indicating he wished to take his own life.

The bodies of Mr Dowling, 59, and Mrs Rose, 58, were found in the blood-stained porch of Mr Dowling's home on the Moonraker Estate, Devizes, on March 2 last year.

Today coroner David Ridley heard from Detective Constable Elizabeth Hunt, based at the major crime unit in Marlborough, who found the text messages drafted on his phone after his death.

Mr Dowling, who retired from the police force in 2007, was suffering from anxiety issues, depression, and sleep deprivation, and drafted three messages on his phone.

A text drafted on March 1 at 6.24pm to Mrs Rose, 58, said: “Tablets driving me mad, cannot go on, please tell the boys to forgive me. Call the police I’m in the garden.”

The court also heard the details of Mr Dowling and Mrs Rose’s deaths from an expert in forensic ballistics, Andre Horn, based at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

He said there was evidence of at least two shots in the porch connected to Mrs Rose, one which partially hit her and another which was fired at close range into the back of her head.

There was no evidence to show that she was physically restrained, although Dr Hugh White, a forensic pathologist, indicated Mr Dowling had not been taking his prescribed medication.

Coroner David Ridley said: “He says that an analysis of the scene suggested that Bill had placed the stock of the shot gun on the floor and the barrel by the side of his head. Victoria had been shot in the back of her head shattering her skull.

“In relation to the toxicology report it was virtually clean in relation to the presence of any drugs prescribed or otherwise in Bill’s system.”

The surgery Mr Dowling used, The Lansdowne Surgery in Devizes, is now part of a pilot scheme instigated by the Community Safety Partnership in Wiltshire and run by the NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

The pilot, which started after Mr Dowling’s death, encourages doctors to notify those at Wiltshire Council’s firearms licensing department if they have concerns for a person holding a license.

Coroner David Ridley said he would also write a report under rule 28 of the coroner’s regulations 2013 to lend his support to the pilot scheme and to prevent future deaths to others.

He said: “There is an opportunity here to get the support of the British Medical Association irrespective of the crucial cornerstone relationship between the GP and the patient, of patient confidentiality, to allow GPs to release information to authorities.”

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