Police dog handler from Leeds who had to give up job he loved took his own life day before new role, inquest told

A police dog handler who could no longer do the job he loved due to ill health was found hanged at his home in Leeds the day before he was due to return to work in another role, an inquest heard.

Wakefield Coroner's Court was told 37-year-old PC Mick Atkinson 'dreaded' the prospect of working in an office after spending more than 10-years as a dog handler with North Yorkshire Police.

Mick Atkinson

Mick Atkinson

Mr Atkinson, the father of a baby daughter and step-father to two boys, was found in the garage of his home in Oulton near Rothwell on October 7 2018.

He had been due to return to work the following day after a 17-month absence due to health problems.

Recording a verdict of suicide, assistant coroner Sarah Watson, said: "It seems his job was his life, certainly being with the dogs and being outdoors."

Reading a statement from Mr Atkinson's partner Kellie Taylor, Ms Watson said he joined the police aged 19 and became a dog handler around 12-years ago.

Mr Atkinson suffered from arthritis in one of his knees as a result of an accident at work and his other knee also became affected.

He underwent a knee operation in April 2017 , which was not successful and he did not return to work.

The inquest heard that after the operation Mr Atkinson's police dogs were reallocated, which upset him.

Ms Taylor wrote in the statement: "In the couple of weeks before he died he was not sleeping well and little things started to annoy him."

Ms Taylor added: "I can't really believe it has happened. We were really happy together with a new house and a young daughter.

"Obviously he could not see a way out, He had health and work issues. He was a wonderful man and will be sadly missed."

The inquest heard a post mortem revealed the cause of death was hanging.

Mr Atkinson's GP Dr R Halligan, who had seen him on October 4, wrote in a report read by coroner Ms Watson : "He stated that the thought of being stuck in an office for the next 23-years filled him with dread and made him tearful."

Dr Halligan said that in June 2017 , Mr Atkinson said he was "feeling stressed and in a low mood" after the dogs had been taken from him.

The inquest heard police found there were no suspicious circumstances in connection with Mr Atkinson's death.

Following the tragedy, Superintendent Mike Walker, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "This is a utterly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the officer’s family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time."

The force's chief constable Lisa Winward added: "Mick was a distinguished officer and had been part of the North Yorkshire Police family for 17 years.

"He started his service as PC in Scarborough and then moved into the Dog Support Unit and became a handler. He was a well-liked and much respected member of the team and of our wider policing family and his loss will be felt profoundly.

"His death has come as a great shock to all of us and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time."

Mr Atknson was the coach of the Hunslet Warriors under eights rugby league side and a regular at Leeds Rhinos matches.

A Crowdfunding page set up by Mr Atkinson's friends in his memory has raised thousands of pounds for mental health charities.

Go to: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/formick?utm_source=facebook