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Top civil servant was stressed before death

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 14, 2014

  • Bill Dowling suffered a sharp emotional decline

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A retired police inspector was found dead with his ex-girlfriend after experiencing a sharp emotional decline, an inquest heard.

Bill Dowling, 59, and Victoria Rose, 58, who had both suffered gunshot wounds, were found in the porch of his home on March 2, last year.

Salisbury Coroner's Court heard Mr Dowling suffered a sudden decline in his mental health in the three weeks leading up to the incident.

Mr Dowling, a keen shooter, was struggling to cope with the grief of losing his mother in 2011 as the second anniversary of her death approached, the inquest heard.

Concerns had also been raised about Mr Dowling's performance as one of the "highest paid" civil servants working in the Ministry of Defence in Upavon.

The relationship between Mr Dowling and Mrs Rose, a divorcée from Devizes, had broken down several months before, in May 2012, though the pair remained friends.

Mrs Rose, an assistant at the MoD, supported Mr Dowling when he began to experience depressive symptoms and was signed off work in February 2013.

The inquest heard Mrs Rose frequently accompanied Mr Dowling to the doctor and confiscated the keys to his shotgun cabinet.

However, she had not realised that he had access to a second gun cabinet in his property.

Giving evidence, Mrs Rose's mother, Sheila Enyon told the inquest how her daughter had left to visit Mr Dowling on March 2 and failed to return.

"Victoria and Bill had known each other since childhood, they attended the same school," Mrs Enyon said.

"I felt he had a bit of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality.

"There was something I found unpleasant about him and my husband and I did not think he was the right man for her. Victoria told me that she and Bill had finished. I believe he never accepted it. Bill kept pressuring Victoria to get back together with him."

Mrs Enyon had stayed at her daughters on the evening of March 1, as they were due to visit friends in South Cerney, Gloucestershire, the following morning.

But after they had dressed and had breakfast, Mrs Rose received a phone call from Mr Dowling asking her to visit because he was coughing up blood, her mother said.

"Victoria asked me if she should go round and we talked about it. Victoria told me she would not be long," Mrs Enyon said.

Later that day, police forced entry to Mr Dowling's home after being alerted by neighbours and discovered the bodies of Mrs Rose and Mr Dowling.

Brigadier Piers Hankinson, Mr Dowling's line manager at the MoD's 243 (Wessex) Brigade, said he had spoken to Mr Dowling about his performance on February 4.

"I remember saying 'Bill, you need to be aware that there are perceptions among some of the Brigade staff that you are not fully pulling your weight within HQ'.

"Bill agreed with me entirely, he was his normal jolly self throughout."

But a few weeks later, on February 12, Mr Dowling was signed off work with insomnia and depression, Brigadier Hankinson said.

In a text message sent to the brigadier, Mr Dowling told him "I rarely go sick but I have never felt so bad".

Joan Plume, Brigadier Hankinson's secretary, told the inquest: "I felt Bill was a really nice man, however I know he had a lot of work and his workload was increasing.

"He always seemed to be having work-related meetings in the evenings."

The inquest heard evidence from members of both Mr Dowling and Mrs Rose's families, who said he had been under an "increasing" workload.

The inquest, which is expected to last for two days, continues.

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