Bristol

Olive Cooke inquest: Poppy seller suffered depression

Olive Cooke
Image caption Mrs Cooke sold poppies for the Royal British Legion in the entrance to Bristol Cathedral

A 92-year-old poppy seller killed herself after suffering problems with depression and insomnia.

Olive Cooke, from Bristol, was one of the UK's longest-serving poppy sellers and had collected money in Bristol for the Royal British Legion for 76 years.

A suicide note said she had managed to get "little sleep" and could "take it no more". Her body was found at the bottom of the Avon Gorge in May.

Avon deputy coroner Terence Moore recorded a verdict of suicide.

Image copyright Olive Cooke
Image caption Olive Cooke said poppy selling took on new meaning when her first husband was killed in action

The inquest, at Flax Bourton Coroner's Court, heard Mrs Cooke had previously attempted suicide in 2009.

Her insomnia meant, in the months before her death, she was getting only two hours of sleep a night.

Mrs Cooke supported numerous charities and at one point received 267 charity letters in one month, leading to suggestions that being hounded for money pushed her to take her own life.

But her family insisted that - while the letters and phone calls were intrusive - the charities were not to blame for Mrs Cooke's death.

Image caption Olive Cooke was a familiar face in Bristol Cathedral where she sold poppies every year

Nothing was said of the charities during the inquest.

But speaking after the hearing, son-in-law Brian Janes said the case had opened a "can of worms".

"She had 27 direct debits to charities, she was an older lady who had a hard time saying 'no' to anybody and they took advantage of her.

"Whether it was deliberately or what, it still ended up taking advantage of an older person and that shouldn't be.

"[We want] Olive to be known as a person with a big heart who loved life."

It is believed the former post lady sold some 30,000 poppies during her time helping the Royal British Legion.

She started selling poppies at the age of 16 as her father was an active Royal British Legion member, having served in World War One.

Mrs Cooke said, before she died, that selling poppies took on new meaning for her when her first husband was killed in action in World War Two.

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