High-flying PR manager, 44, put on furlough during pandemic hanged herself after her husband asked for a divorce after they had been together for 20 years, inquest hears
An ambitious mother-of-two who was scared to be alone after her husband filed for divorce during the pandemic, was found hanged in a farm outbuilding, an inquest heard today.
Public relations manager Elizabeth McKenzie, 44, was sent into a ‘downward spiral’ after being put on furlough when the coronavirus pandemic struck, a coroner was told.
Before then, she had had a prestigious career including managing an event for the Royal Opera Gala in 2005 that was attended by Prince Charles.
On May 21 this year, she went to stay with her aunt after discovering her account manager partner Alex, who had been with her 20 years, wanted a divorce.
Her body was discovered two weeks later and her cause of death was confirmed as hanging, the inquest heard.
Public relations manager Elizabeth McKenzie, 44, was put on furlough when the coronavirus pandemic struck which sent the mother-of-two into a ‘downward spiral, an inquest heard
Just a week before her death, she visited her psychotherapist Rufus Harrington who told the coroner: ‘It was clear she was struggling to come to terms with the impending end of her marriage.’
Similarly, in a talking therapies meeting, Elizabeth had said she was ‘severely depressed’ relating to fear of being alone and relationship difficulties.
Proud aunt Eileen Cartledge described Elizabeth as an outgoing, positive and energetic woman always looking on the bright side.
She added: ‘The last year had been terrible for her. The pandemic meant she was furloughed and her marriage was in trouble, they were about to embark in divorce.
‘On the morning of her death, she told me she was not doing too well. She curled up on the sofa in the foetal position and when I came back into the room, she was gone.’
The inquest heard that three hours after she had gone missing, her aunt phoned Elizabeth’s husband and then with ‘no other option’ dialed 999 to report Elizabeth as missing.
Her body was discovered in the early hours of June 4 in a farm outbuilding at Mill Cottage, Marcham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
A small suicide note was left in the back of her phone case which apologised to her father Phillip Holland, her step-mother Patricia and her husband Alex for taking her own life.
Her father added: ‘Elizabeth was a dazzling butterfly, a free spirit, she was the most loving, kind soul but she flew too near to the sun.’
Today the Oxfordshire coroner heard how Elizabeth was found dead just 10 days before the anniversary of her mother’s death, who passed away when she was just 16.
Having met her husband Alex in 2001, the pair married in 2008 and lived in Derbyshire with their two sons, having started a barn conversion before her tragic death.
In a statement, Alex today said: ‘Our marriage began to deteriorate and divorce proceedings had commenced.
‘Elizabeth’s mental health had been a problem for some time, a large amount of this was down to her not seeking help when she needed too.’
The last time Alex had heard from his wife was in an email where she asked whether there was any prospect of the marriage continuing, the coroner was told.
Sitting at Oxford coroners court, senior coroner Darren Salter concluded a verdict of suicide.
After discovering her account manager partner Alex, who had been with her 20 years, wanted a divorce, Elizabeth went to stay with her aunt on May 21. Her body was discovered in the early hours of June 4 this year and her cause of death was confirmed as hanging, the inquest heard
Following her tragic death, there was an outpouring of love for the 44-year-old who had worked for almost two decades at Buxton Opera House, as well as the University of Derby and the Buxton International Festival.
More recently she was involved in the Buxton Spa Prize, organising Pump Room Live, working with the Trevor Osborne Charitable Trust and was also the development, events and PR Manager for the Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust.
Jennifer Spencer, chairman of trustees at the Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust, paid tribute to the mum-of-two.
She said: ‘Liz was a great asset and has been involved with the Crescent revitalisation for many years.
‘She gave her heart and soul to the project and was a key part of the project team, attracting significant funding, sponsorship and partnerships.’
Liz worked for the High Peak Theatre Trust, which owns and manages Buxton Opera House, from 2002 to 2006.
Remembering her work, Emma Oakes from Buxton Opera House said: ‘Her achievements were numerous, but highlights included the event management for the prestigious Royal Opera Gala in 2005 attended by Prince Charles and the soon-to-be Duchess of Cornwall.
‘Liz had amazing community links and was instrumental in developing our Cavendish Business Club as a way for businesses to support the Opera House.’
Gina Bradbury Fox from The Outdoor Guide knew Liz for more than a decade.
Remembering her friend and work colleague, she added: ‘From the moment I met Liz over ten years ago, I knew she was a woman after my own heart and a force to be reckoned with.
‘More recently we had started plotting some post Covid adventures which would have cemented our friendship and working relationship even further.
‘She was an integral part of The Outdoor Guide Foundation and developing a project with her much-loved Peak District National Park. We have collectively lost someone who was a genuinely lovely person with so much left to give and we shall miss her.’
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.