Last texts and tangled affairs of police chief

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most senior police officers bombarded a string of friends and lovers with desperate messages apologising and telling them he intended to kill himself after his wife discovered he was having an affair, his inquest heard yesterday.

Michael Todd, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, begged forgiveness before he was found dead on Snowdon last March after taking a cocktail of alcohol and sleeping pills. Widely tipped to have been the next Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, he had set out to walk in appalling weather conditions as his personal life fell apart. His last message to one unnamed recipient said: "I'm sorry for what I have done, forgive me in another life." Mr Todd's body was found the next day slumped beside an empty bottle of gin on Bwlch Glas, close to Snowdon's summit.

In the hours and days before his death, Mr Todd, 50, exchanged intimate text messages with his wife and at least seven other people, known only as A to G, and not identified as male or female. But the context, timing and content of the messages left little doubt that they involved other women. One, G, stayed at his flat overnight two days after his infidelity with another woman, A, was discovered by his wife.

The North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones concluded there was insufficient evidence to justify a verdict of either suicide or accident through misadventure.

Returning a narrative finding he said: "Mr Todd died of exposure when his state of mind was affected by alcohol, a drug and confusion due to his personal situation."

Mr Todd's wife, Carolyn, sat impassive throughout the hearing as evidence emerged of her husband's extra-marital affairs. Following his death, Mr Todd was linked with Angie Robinson, the married chief executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. He was also alleged to have had relationships with up to a dozen female colleagues. In a statement, Mrs Todd said she and her husband had been unable to seek help. "In his last email to me Michael said 'I really am so sorry for all the hurt I have caused you. I just hope that you will be able to forgive me at least in part some day'. I have forgiven him and Michael's family have forgiven him," she said.

The coroner ruled that none of the identities of the recipients of Mr Todd's final texts or emails should be disclosed, including one to someone who had spent the night with him two days before he died. However, details of Mr Todd's tangled love life captivated the packed gallery at the Gwynedd Council Offices in Caernarfon.

The inquest heard that his last emotional contact was with a person named only as C, prompting them to call the police. He had earlier apologised to C, saying, "don't send any more messages, it will cause you grief" and "sorry for being a pain".

Another friend, a Metropolitan Police officer referred to as B, managed to dial through to hear Mr Todd's "urgent heavy-breathing sound" as he lay unconscious.

The inquest heard that Mr Todd had recently been "challenged" by his wife over an affair with a woman referred to at the inquest as person A. The policeman was described as "cold, hard and calculating" following the emergence of his infidelity, calling it a "nightmare scenario".

But as the personal problems overwhelmed him he told A that he needed a week to put his affairs in order and intended to kill himself, asking her to obtain sleeping pills for him.

In the days leading up to the discovery of his body, he trawled internet suicide sites. On the Saturday before his death, he bought maps and guides to the Lake District and North Wales at Manchester's Arndale Centre. He later spent the night at his city-centre flat with witness G telling them he was in a "dark place". The following day when the couple parted, Mr Todd "appeared anxious; he was crying, like a man who had lost everything," the inquest heard.

That evening, after emailing his wife, Mr Todd sent a text message to C to say he had driven to Cumbria with the intention of committing suicide but had "bottled out".

On Monday when A refused to meet him, he sent a message to another person, known as F, telling them "I'm just saying goodbye, I'm not going to see you again", before setting off for Wales in his black Range Rover.

A separate inquiry to be held by West Midlands Police is due to report on whether Mr Todd's personal life affected his professional duties.