Police, Fire & Court

Girlfriend of former Manchester City goalkeeper hung herself at Dunham Massey after struggling with medical condition

By David Prior at

The girlfriend of a former Manchester City footballer killed herself at a beauty spot after she struggled to deal with a life-changing medical condition, an inquest heard today.

Bank worker Faye Howard, 23. sent a final text to 22-year-old goalkeeper Billy O’Brien after she was left “embarrassed” and “feeling like a burden” due to a debilitating bowel problem.

She was later found hanged from a tree at Dunham Massey after Mr O’Brien, who shared their quayside apartment, alerted police when he received the message.

The Stockport hearing was told Miss Howard, a former Liverpool John Moores sports science student, had developed Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia after being prescribed Amitriptyline for regular migraines. The condition then begun to “take its toll” on her and she struggled to hold down employment.

In a statement, former City youth team player Mr O’Brien, who now plays for Macclesfield Town, said: “I met Faye in 2015 via social media and things became quite serious quite quickly.

“Whilst we were on holiday together she began to suffer from really bad stomach pains and constipation and she saw a doctor when we returned to the UK.

“Over the months I think this began to take its toll on Faye, particularly as there was no sign of it improving. In January 2017 I was sent to Scotland for work and initially Faye came with but could not find employment and moved back to Manchester and this put a strain on the relationship.

Faye Howard with Billy O’Brien

“In May 2016 the problems got worse and she cancelled going on holiday because she was worried that she would bring me down. It was clear that Faye was not in a good place and she said she felt like a burden. She decided to move out and go home where she would feel more comfortable.

“It was very hard because we loved each other man anything else in the world.

“After that she told me she was having thoughts about wrapping her car round a tree or putting tablets out on the table but she explained to me that she would do it and that it was just a bad moment.

“I had planned to see her that Friday on my return from Scotland for a meal. When she sent me those text messages on the 29th of June I knew they were serious and I called the police to express my concerns.”

Faye’s sister Rachel Bunn said: “Faye began to suffer from migraines and started taking medication but it caused problems with her bowel.

“The problem could have been treated with surgery but it was quite invasive so they tried to give her different methods that were non-invasive.

“It took us 12 months to get a diagnosis but by that point she was getting depressed about the situation. For a 23-year-old girl it was a nightmare scenario. Her relationship with Billy began to struggle because she was embarrassed and she ended up moving back in with her mother because it was less embarrassing for her.

Faye was found dead at Dunham Massey on June 29th this year

“By Christmas 2016 she was on her way down and she got to a point where everything was too much. She got a job at a tanning shop in Altrincham where she did really well. But her condition got progressively worse and the girls at work started teasing her about her condition and it was really embarrassing for her so she left.

“There came a time where Billy had to move to Scotland for his job and she initially went with him but she was struggling to find work out there. She came home and lived at home for a bit and then moved back to their apartment where she lived on her own.

“She got a job at HSBC in the call centre and she enjoyed that job and found it easy to get on with people. Her condition was still giving her trouble and the receptionist at work was a little awkward with her, but she did make some good friends there.”

Miss Bunn added: “Faye was quite a good actor and I could tell when she was not okay but with other people she would act like there was nothing wrong. We knew that she was low and she was getting depressed but she was a good actor and this would have been a shock to a lot of people.

“In May she was signed off from work for six to eight weeks as she was struggling to cope – she just needed a bit of time to get herself together. She was offered some counselling and went to one appointment but she didn’t like it and felt she could speak to us enough.

“The week before her death she went on a family holiday to Cyprus, her and Billy came and they had a great holiday. We noticed that Faye had lost a lot of weight because she wasn’t eating. She had always been a size eight or ten but she looked really slim at this point.

“After she returned from holiday she went into work for a meeting. There was a comment from a manager who said: “I am not here to babysit you,” and this upset Faye – she just wanted them to understand her condition. There was tension between her and her manager.

Billy O’Brien and Faye Howard had begun a relationship in 2015

“On the Wednesday or Thursday Faye handed in her notice at work. On the Thursday morning she came downstairs with a black sports bag and said to her dad: “I am sick of everything and everybody,” and that was the last he saw of her.

“I knew that she was low but I didn’t realise she was that low that she would actually go and do it. We had snippets of conversations when she has said she has set out all her tablets on the table but would never do it. I didn’t think in a million years she would act on it.”

Faye’s GP Dr Philip Stratford-Smith said: “I first saw Faye in 2016 when she presented with abdominal pain and constipation. This was a recognised but not common side effect of Amitriptyline, which she had been taking to treat the migraines she was experiencing.

“She was advised to stop taking the medication. The problems were normally a reversible side effect but it can take some time, sometimes even months of years to calm down. When I first saw Faye I was quite worried about her so I admitted her to hospital immediately. During that period of time she had a number of CT scans and surgical operations were discussed but I don’t think Faye was too keen on that.

“In January 2017 I diagnosed Faye with low mood and anxiety. When she returned from Scotland I recognised a significant change in her mood and demeanour and I prescribed her with anti-depressants.

“On the 5th of June I saw Faye and she said she had laid out some pills on the table and so I did a suicide assessment. I assessed her risk of suicide as mild to moderate but she had not reached the threshold for the next stage. She had a great relationship with Billy and the issues in Scotland had compounded issues with her condition. I didn’t see it coming at all. The last time I saw her she really positive about everything.”

The inquest heard Faye was found dead on June 29 this year. Amongst her belongings was her mobile phone which was playing music, a photo of her grandfather and two packs of anti-depressants. A suicide note was later found in her bedroom.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Jason Wells said: “Faye found her condition very embarrassing and it caused problems with her job. She was given anti-depressants and throughout 2017 her mood was described as ‘up and down.’ “I am satisfied there was indication of intent to take her life.”

Additional reporting: Cavendish Press