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Speedway star Danny Ayres' inquest: Mental health system failed him, says partner

The partner of Mildenhall speedway star Danny Ayres says the mental health system let him down 'time and time again' in the months leading up to his suicide.

Mr Ayres, of Girton Close, took his own life in the early hours of February 1 this year, an inquest at Suffolk Coroner's Court heard on Monday.

He had battled with his mental health, and had seen doctors in an attempt to try to help.

Danny Ayres
Danny Ayres

In an emotional tribute, his partner Jodie Pledge, who he had been with for about six years and had two children with, said that the mental health system failed him.

“Danny massively slipped through the net. He asked doctors for help, as he just wanted to feel normal. He told them how he couldn’t relax and that his mind and body don’t ever switch off.”

Mr Ayres, who had been to All Saints’ Primary School and St Felix in Newmarket, went to his Red Lodge-based GP to discuss his mental health and asked to be assessed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

But the larger than life character whose natural habitat was the speedway stadium was told the symptoms he displayed were a result of his frequent use of cocaine, and was referred to drug charity Turning Point.

“For me it literally jumped out of the page at you that Danny suffered with something like ADHD,” Ms Pledge said.

“To anyone that knew Danny personally he couldn't keep still, he was so hyperactive, impulsive and full on, everything was just full throttle and that's what I absolutely adored and loved about him as did everyone else.

“It made him exceptionally talented on a bike. It was his strength with his career as a speedway rider but his weakness off the track and devastatingly mixed with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs his undoing.”

The night before his death he and his longterm partner had an argument about his use of drugs at the home.

The court was told Ms Pledge found his body hanging at the home they shared with their two young daughters, Lilou and Anaiya, when she woke up.

She cut the body down, called emergency services and started resuscitation efforts which she frantically continued until police arrived at their home.

Emergency services took over CPR efforts, but Mr Ayres was declared dead by paramedics at 8.55am.

Detectives found no note at the scene explaining his actions.

Dr Ryan Butte, pathologist at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, said toxicology tests found cocaine and alcohol in his system, and said the cause of death was from hanging.

The inquest on Monday heard that outside the speedway season he struggled, leading him to turn to drink and drugs.

“This is when the other person in his head would take over. Danny spoke to me about hearing voices in his head when he took a mixture of drugs and alcohol.This is when Danny was a completely different person,”said Ms Pledge.

“I’m not going to talk about this person inside Danny's head as he hated him and so did I. He was horrible and the only peace I have after losing Danny is that he doesn’t have to fight that person any more and neither do I.”

Senior coroner Nigel Parsley concluded his death was a result of suicide. He told the court there was no evidence anyone could have predicted the actions he would take.

“He absolutely thrived and loved speedway and for me it saved his life more than once," added Ms Pledge. “When he was on a bike he literally felt normal and had a sense of belonging. When he was in the speedway season and you would struggle to find a more dedicated person,” said Ms Pledge about her ‘soulmate’.

“I want him remembered as the charismatic, loving and entertaining man that he was, this is the only way I remember and love him. I will never have a single ounce of anger towards Danny. We are all left broken hearted and a huge hole is left in all our lives forever and as his partner I will always feel I couldn’t save him from the demons in his head.

“It wasn’t Danny who made that decision to end his life; it was his demons in his head. It would have been impulsive and not of sound mind, a decision that he would never have made if he had been sober.

“I feel knowledge is key but sadly there wasn’t enough out there to save Danny. I just wish that our medical professionals have more information and time to put into mental health, then maybe just maybe it might save somebody else’s life.”