Suicide pact trial: Natasha Gordon jailed over Rutland Water death

Image source, Leicestershire Police
Image caption,
Natasha Gordon, 44, was given a four-year jail term at Leicester Crown Court

A woman who backed out of a suicide pact, leaving a man to die alone, has been given a four-year jail term.

Natasha Gordon, 44, was convicted at Leicester Crown Court in December, two years after Matthew Birkinshaw, 31, was found dead in his car at Rutland Water.

She met the postman, from Walsall, West Midlands, on an internet forum where she agreed to be his "suicide partner".

Gordon, described as a "suicide advocate" in court, was found guilty of encouraging Mr Birkinshaw's suicide.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Natasha Gordon denied assisting in the death of Matthew Birkinshaw but was found guilty by a jury

The court was told that after exchanging messages the pair travelled together to the UK's largest reservoir on 17 December 2015.

But Gordon was found by police after leaving Mr Birkinshaw alone in his Fiat Punto, having suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

An officer who attended the scene said Ms Gordon told him Mr Birkinshaw had given her £60 to get home but "asked her not to change his mind".

Image source, Leicestershire Police
Image caption,
Matthew Birkinshaw's parents called their son "thoughtful, sensitive, generous and compassionate"

The court heard Gordon contacted other men about more deals within hours of Mr Birkinshaw's death.

Prosecutor Tim Cray said she was "prepared to say to people she hardly knew" that taking their own life "was the right thing to do".

Sentencing judge Mrs Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb told Gordon, from Paston, Peterborough, she was "gripped by self-centredness" and had no "settled intention" to commit suicide herself.

"I have found you misled [Mr Birkinshaw] into believing you were genuine and firmly intent on committing suicide with him, although you were not fully committed."

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Matthew Birkinshaw was found dead at Rutland Water in December 2015

Gordon, who has a history of depression and has previously attempted to kill herself, denied the charge and said she had no input into his decision to die.

After they met online, Gordon sent a message to Mr Birkinshaw which said: "I really can't wait to go tomorrow, I hope you do not change your mind."

Mr Birkinshaw then travelled through the night to the defendant's home.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Gordon: "He was a stranger to you. You took no trouble to find out anything about him. You introduced the method that he used and advised him on how it was to be deployed.

"He may not have gone through with it if you had not accompanied him."

How was she caught?

On 17 December 2015, Ms Gordon contacted her partner from Rutland Water to tell him she was going to kill herself.

He then raised the alarm with the police, who found Ms Gordon.

It was then later when Ms Gordon disclosed that police should be looking for "another person at risk" - Mr Birkinshaw.

The court heard that Royal Mail employee Mr Birkinshaw was found locked in the car and a police officer had to break the window with his baton.

Mr Birkinshaw, who had been in good health and had a stable girlfriend, was pronounced dead at 19:24 GMT.

The police then investigated Gordon and discovered the messages.

Mr Birkinshaw's mother, Margaret, said in an emotional statement in court: "His last words to me were 'Give me a hug mum, I'll be back tomorrow.'

"I've asked myself a million times over the past two years 'Why didn't I ring him? Would it have made a difference if he'd heard my voice?"

In a statement issued after the guilty verdict against Gordon, Mr Birkinshaw's parents urged others who may be struggling to speak to someone that has "your best interests at heart".

"If this message averts one tragedy, it will mean that something positive has come out of the death of such a beautiful and much-loved son."

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