Man drowns himself. Seemed so buoyant earlier

Did guilt drive star chief constable to his death?

I have no idea what drove Michael Todd, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, to take his own life (for that is clearly what he did) and, frankly, I don't need to know. But I hope his very public death clearly demonstrates that it is possible to be successful, respected, articulate, competent and be fully functioning in the eyes of everyone around you and yet still become suicidal. Although there was some worry amongst colleagues about his state of mind in the days leading up to his death,  no-one believed that suicide was at all likely.

I've lost count of the number of times I've read that someone seemed 'normal' prior to their death. Or to read that Mrs X went to the Post Office as she had always done and chatted to friends, only to be found hanged in the garage three hours later. Farmer Y had a few beers and left the pub with a cheery wave only to be found in the morning with his brains blown out...and so on.

There have been cases of suicide by airline pilots deliberately crashing their planes (not something that gets much publicity, as you can imagine) even though they appear perfectly rational and normal right up to the moment of impact. The tube train driver, Leslie Newson, almost certainly drove his train into a blind tunnel, deliberately killing himself and forty three passengers, in the Moorgate tube disaster of 1975. He had money on him which he was going to use to buy his daughter a car that afternoon and he showed no obvious signs of being suicidal.

Why do these people carry on with their lives normally in the period leading up to their deaths and even continue to make plans for themselves for a time when they will no longer be around? They make appointments, they buy things that are intended for use after the time of their deaths. They book holidays, accept invitations, in fact they behave exactly as if nothing was going to happen, and indeed if they do not take their lives everything does continue as normal, quite seamlessly with no one being any the wiser. Therein lies the answer.

The reason is that killing yourself isn't easy. In most cases it takes a tremendous effort of will to overcome the natural urge to survive. Until the very moment of the suicidal act nobody really knows if they can go through with it. Many come very close but back away. In the end, no matter how long it has been contemplated, no matter how much planning has gone into it suicide is, in the majority of cases, an impulsive act.

Mike Todd was an intelligent man  with a strong will. He must have known just how difficult it would have been to take that final action which would end his life. He opted for a method which avoided that moment of impulse. He put himself beyond help and then allowed himself to die. As sad as suicide is, if you are going to kill yourself, death by hyporthermia helped on with drugs and alcohol is a painless and un-traumatic way to go.