"He just changed when our Harper passed. He couldn’t cope with it," said his family. "People that age, they can’t cope with losing youngsters."
Trigger warning: The story contains details of suicide that might be distressing to some readers.
Unable to bear the grief of losing his great-granddaughter, a 79-year-old man ended his life and was found dead inside his home in Hanley, Staffordshire. Only three months had passed since the man, Peter Nicklin, had lost his 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Harper-Lee Fanthorpe.
Little Harper-Lee died a tragic death after swallowing a button battery from a remote control inside the house. Her mother, Stacey Nicklin, only realized that the toddler swallowed the tiny battery when she found the remote control in her bedroom with one of the batteries missing, according to the Daily Mail.
On the ill-fated day of May 23, 2021, Harper-Lee began puking blood at home and was rushed to the hospital. The acid from the battery had burned through her food pipe and into a major artery, leaving the child with a hole in her esophagus.
While she was in surgery, Harper-Lee suffered cardiac arrhythmia and was eventually pronounced dead, as reported by BBC. The loss of the little one left the family in an overwhelming state of grief. And since then, Peter no longer seemed like himself.
"The day after he said, 'why didn’t they take me instead of her?’ He just couldn’t cope with it," said his son, Darren, who is also Harper-Lee's grandfather, according to The Sun.
Great-grandfather, 79, of two-year-old girl who died after swallowing button battery hanged himself three months later https://t.co/PaE019LTI8— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) September 13, 2021
Earlier, Peter was known to be someone who "loved life." But the toddler's death completely changed him.
"He went from happy-go-lucky, one of the lads, to he just wasn’t himself. We can’t believe he’s done it," Darren said. "He just changed when our Harper passed. He couldn’t cope with it. People that age, they can’t cope with losing youngsters."
Darren revealed that his father would not talk about it and bottled up all his feelings. "I think he was thinking about it all the time... He was just sitting in the house," he added. "I think it just kept running through his head."
On August 15, Peter was found hanging inside his home after he took his own life. Peter is survived by his wife, Pauline, his three children, Darren, Carl, and Claire, as well as his grandchildren.
"He loved all his grandkids. He was very family-oriented, my dad," Darren said. "He mellowed as he got older, especially with the grandkids, because we had a fairly strict upbringing. He was one of the lads. A hard worker. They knew him round Hanley as ‘The Beard’ because he’d got a big beard."
Following Harper-Lee's death, her devastated mother has been raising awareness about the dangers of button batteries. Stacey has also been campaigning for better laws, and an online petition is currently demanding action to prevent such deaths.
“The last thing she said was ‘Mummy, I need you.”— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) June 28, 2021
Two year old Harper-Lee died in hospital after swallowing a button battery. Her mum and sister speak to #BBCBreakfast as they campaign for awareness. https://t.co/OyLlNYjc0h pic.twitter.com/fQp0g4kr7C
"It's about awareness. If I can save one child or a hundred, then I've promised my baby I've done what I've done," Stacey said, as quoted by The Sun.
The heartbroken mother added, "They need to be more secure. Parents need to check. Just check, check, check."
If you or someone you know shows signs of suicidal thoughts, please reach out to 1-800-273-8255 (NCPL) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Cover image source: GoFundMe