I hadn’t planned the day well and it was dusk when I arrived that this church outside Wigan. I rushed into the cemetery blindly thinking it wouldn’t be long before I couldn’t read the headstones. Old graves from a hundred years around seemed to be the only ones around me. A man walking dogs pointed to the far end at the rear of the churchyard and said the more recent graves were down there. No street lamps down there - not good. My torch was low on battery power.
Sadly most of the graves were all similar: shiny, black, modern. Normally I can walk along the grass and read three rows of graves simultaneously but it was too dark. I had to read one row at a time. Dusk had given over to darkness by the time I found the grave I wanted and here stood by the end of a sad story.
The chap here is Terry Newton who was an English international rugby league player in the 1990s and 2000s. I’m not sporty but I can remember reading about this demise in the newspaper. This 15 stone 10 lbs played for Leeds, Wigan, Bradford and Wakefield Trinity and was such a brilliant player he was one of rare few players to feature in each of the first 15 seasons of Super League.
On 24th November 2009 a drugs test proved he’d been injecting himself with performance-enhancing drugs. On 22nd February 2010 the UK Anti-Doping Agency banned him from playing professionally for two years. He was one of the first sportsmen to have tested positive and the International Olympics Committee hoped this would be a fierce warning to all athletes hoping to compete in the London 2012 Games. At the time Terry had a 2-year contract with Wakefield Trinity but had played just two games.
Since the ban he’d run a local pub and not long before his death had hosted an end-of-season bash for the Salford players. Those who knew him well said he was full of remorse for being banned. One Sunday - seven months after the ban - he was found hanging in his loft. In the garage, hidden behind a toolbox, were the syringes and drugs that had sent him on the road to ruin, hidden from his wife and young children.
He’d left several notes saying he wanted to die. On his Facebook page in the early hours of the morning he’d typed "Luv U all but it's end time".
The coroner recorded an open verdict. Though reports showed signs of the steroid nandrolone, cocaine, amphetamine, anti-depressants and alcohol she concluded that none of the drugs alone was a direct factor in the cause of death but their combination may have lowered his mood. There were several recent cuts to both his wrists but they were deemed relatively superficial.
He’s buried with his sister Leanne who died of pneumonia following addiction to heroin. Terry was holding her hand as she died.
A man was visiting a nearby grave. My camera flashed automatically in the dark and he looked round as if to say, “What the hell do you think you doing!” so I waited for him to leave. Afterwards I sat in the car and had a coffee before heading home. You have to feel for the parents and kids left behind. What a sorry tale. The vicar was just locking up the gates of the church and I felt like asking him why God invented drugs? He looked like he was rushing home to watch Bake Off or The Dukes Of Hazard so I didn’t both engaging him in conversation.
The house where life ended…
Still looking….glad this building shed some light (had to brighten this photo)…