Thursday, October 26, 2006


The Daily Mail is great at one thing – finding a hate figure, finding someone to blame. Here they have a look at the tragic case of the Ainscows – the couple who tried to kill themselves owing to their daughter’s spending habits. And, since they cannot blame immigrants, gypsies, inheritance tax or Tony Blair, they thrash around to find someone else to blame. And lo and behold, we have a new figure to hate – those evil TV executives.

The group of television executives who met this week to review their major new drama were convinced they had good reason to be pleased with themselves.

Yes, they are television executives. No doubt they are earning vast fortunes for doing the square root of fuck all. I’d be pleased with myself under those circumstances.

Indeed, their programme has all the ingredients to be a huge success. Real-life drama, intense family relationships and one of Britain’s best-loved actresses, Brenda Blethyn no less, will surely make Mysterious Creatures a ratings winner.

Which is the point of TV, surely? To be successful? To be a ratings winner?

The 90-minute programme, to be screened on Sunday at 9pm, is being heavily promoted by ITV as a hard-hitting drama premiere.

And arguably that paragraph counts as promotion – as it says exactly where and when the programme will be on.

There is no doubt its subject matter is a compelling story, retelling the harrowing tale of how an elderly couple, Wendy and William Ainscow, walked into the sea off Tenerife in 2004 to commit suicide because, they said, they could no longer cope with the burden of caring for their spendthrift autistic daughter.

The fact that the story is compelling may be the main reason why it has been made into a TV programme. It is a bold TV station who makes non-compelling TV programmes.

While William was tragically successful in his attempt to take his own life, Wendy was plucked from the sea, still alive. Her survival threw her into a pit of despair from which she has never escaped.

I would argue she was in a pit of despair before her husband’s death as well. Hence, you know, the suicide attempt.

Alone and impoverished she returned to Britain, to eke out an existence in sheltered accommodation on the Wirral.

Living off the state, was she? Normally this would make her a Daily Mail hate figure. But the Mail doesn’t like something not being hypocritical stand in the way of a nice hysterical story.

So perhaps it is not surprising that, desperate for money, she agreed to sign away the rights to her life story when TV executives came calling last year.

So, she made a choice, did she? Her problem. She sold her story for money. Live with it. Or not as the case maybe.

But dramatic events since suggest this may have been a disastrous decision - both on her part and on the part of the television company in question.

Well, yes and no. It will probably be a great decision for the TV company as they will have a highly acclaimed drama on their hands. And as for Wendy, well, she will have got money for trying to commit suicide. Whether that makes her happy in the long term or not is not really the point, and certainly isn’t the problem of the TV company. If accepting the money in the long adversely affects Wendy, then it is her issue. It is a business transaction between her and the TV company.

For the Mail can reveal that while those executives were anticipating their forthcoming triumph, Wendy Ainscow had once again flown to Tenerife and attempted to drown herself in the sea.

People who attempt suicide and fail often try again. I fail to see a link between her actions and the TV executives.

On Saturday, October 14, on a quiet beach on the neighbouring island of La Gomera, she swallowed 30 sleeping pills before wading fully-clothed into the freezing cold sea.
Plucked unconscious from the water by a passer-by, she was flown to the hospital, where doctors saved her.

Milk the melodrama! Come on!

She was taken to the University Hospital in Tenerife, where her condition was said to be 'stable'. She was heavily sedated while doctors worked to establish if she had suffered any brain damage.

So the doctors did what doctors do? Great, this is an exclusive groundbreaking story then.

If that were not shocking enough, the Mail can also reveal this was Wendy Ainscow's fourth attempt to kill herself in this way since her husband died.

It may be sad and tragic, but it is not shocking. Lots of people make repeated attempts on their life. And often the only thing that stops them is when they succeed.

Why does she keep flying thousands of miles to attempt suicide?

Maybe she wants to die? Maybe she is a little unstable? That’s what I would take from the five attempts on her own life.

Only she can answer that question,

Quite. But I sense there will be pointless lurid speculation to come…

but it seems clear there is a morbid link in her mind with the Canary Islands, a kind of grim resolve that only this place - where her husband died - is a suitable setting for her own demise.

Oh, and I was right. Pointless, lurid, idiotic and blindingly obvious speculation. I mean, for fuck’s sake give me strength. Do we reckon that a failed suicide pact with her husband is one of the most traumatic event of her life? Could be! And maybe, if she remains unstable, deeply depressed and unhappy, maybe she would relive that experience over and over again in her mind and potentially want to revisit it in reality?

Was Wendy Ainscow really in a fit mental state to sign a contract turning her life story into must-watch prime-time television?

Honestly, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But, I’m guessing, nor was The Daily Mail. This is yet more lurid speculation from The Mail.

Surely the production company, Leopard Films, were not aware that as they were signing up the stars and preparing the script, Wendy Ainscow was repeatedly attempting suicide.

Probably not, no. Do they have a duty to spy on the woman, to check up on her? I’d say no…

Now questions are being asked as to whether the publicity circus preceding the programme contributed to this latest attempt to end her life.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Who is asking those questions? Aside from The Mail, who is asking those questions? Specify, give me just one name of someone who is asking those questions. And as for whether it contributed to the latest attempt on her life, quite possibly. But as the article suggests, this woman has a history of suicide attempts.

No one doubts that Mrs Ainscow agreed to the painful prospect of watching her own husband's death re-enacted on screen.

Exactly my point. Her choice.

But could a woman in such mental turmoil really have guessed how she would react to seeing her own story being pumped out on TV for public consumption?

No idea, but again, her problem if she reacts badly.

During filming, tourists in Tenerife watched as Timothy Spall and Brenda Blethyn clasped hands and staggered repeatedly into the sea, re-enacting Wendy and Bill's fateful steps.
As one onlooker said: "It felt uncomfortably like rubber-necking at a road accident."

The obvious inference being that the onlooker is used to rubber necking. And if they found the experience so uncomfortable, maybe they should have walked on and looked at something else?

The irony is Wendy may still be lying in a hospital bed when the programme is screened, wishing more than ever that she, too, had died the day her husband lost his life.

The constant suicide attempts indicate that the woman wants to die, whether or not she wants to die more than ever is pretty much irrelevant. And if she is in hospital, maybe she won’t have to watch the TV programme?

On that November day in 2004, she clasped Bill's hand as they waded into the sea in Tenerife.
After 40 years of making joint decisions as devoted husband and wife, they had drawn up a suicide pact - their very last act of togetherness.

Pump up that melodrama! Milk it for all it is worth! God, this makes me feel ill.

The couple were driven to despair and financial ruin by their daughter Lisa, now 35, who, they said, suffered from Asperger's syndrome. She was an obsessive spender who ran up debts amounting to thousands of pounds and had to eat out every night at expensive restaurants.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a highly complicated condition. Many people have it, and don’t go out and spend a fortune a day. I strongly object to the implication that the daughter’s syndrome is linked to the suicide of the father and the repeated attempts of the mother – and I think a lot of people with the syndrome would object as well. This is The Daily Mail being fucking ignorant. They should check their facts before they spout this shite.

Indeed, it was Lisa's uncontrollable spending habit - at one stage, it was claimed, she was spending £1,000 a week, with 2,000 pairs of shoes stacked up in her bedroom - that had literally pushed her parents over the brink.

Here’s a wonderful, ground breaking idea. How about stopping her from spending like responsible parents would do?

Mr and Mrs Ainscow said they were getting through £1,000 a week to support their daughter - and when they refused to give her money, it was said she would tell them she'd never speak to them again, threaten to kill herself, or bang on neighbours' doors and beg for cash.

There are lots of difficult children in this world. And lots of parents cope with them. It is a very harsh thing to say, but perhaps the problem lies less with the daughter and more with the parents? Could they be *shock horror* bad parents?

To pay her mounting debts, 75-year-old Mr Ainscow resorted to theft - stealing from the post office he ran in Eastham, Merseyside.
In 2002, he was jailed for 15 months for stealing benefit books and cashing dockets to the value of £50,098. Liverpool Crown Court heard how he had stashed away new books meant for customers before cashing them in.

So Mr Ainscow was a criminal who served time? Lots of people steal under tremendous pressure, but normally The Daily Mail would not allow the pressure to be an excuse. But again, let’s not let a coherent editorial stance on theft to stand in the way of a hysterical story.

He was ordered to repay the £50,000, and he and his wife owed banks another £50,000. They remortgaged their home and Mrs Ainscow went back to work as a supply teacher, in an effort to keep the family afloat.

Oh, so they had financial problems, just like a lot of other families do?

In interviews at the time, the couple told of their despair over their daughter and said they felt let down by a lack of support from the authorities.

Again, at the risk of sounding harsh, it sounds like the Ainscows were very good at blaming other people for their own problems.

Mr Ainscow was released on appeal after three months, but under the shadow of shame and with Lisa's mounting psychological problems, life became increasingly intolerable for the couple.
The tipping point came, they said, when the authorities failed to help ease their plight when Lisa was released, without their knowledge, from a psychiatric hospital where she had spent ten months.

Blame the authorities! Blame the TV execs! Blame everyone bar the couple in question!

So this quiet, devoted middle-class couple - he had been an oceanographer with the Ministry of Defence before retiring to run the post office - decided that life simply wasn't worth living.

Would it make a difference if they weren’t middle-class? This does leave an unpleasant taste in my mouth – the implication is that the couple’s lives were worth more because they were middle class and had decent jobs in the past.

They flew to Tenerife, and with money they got from pawning Mrs Ainscow's diamond and sapphire engagement ring, paid for a last meal and a night in a hotel. After taking a cocktail of sleeping pills, they went to the beach at Los Cristianos and waded into the sea.

Very tragic. Like most suicides.

They were rescued by a fishing boat, but Bill was already dead. Wendy regained consciousness two days later in hospital, and afterwards recalled: "I just thought, oh no, I want to go, I don't want to live."

Well, it seems obvious that the woman didn’t want to live. She had just tried to commit suicide!

The suicide pact of a respectable couple who should have been looking forward to a quiet retirement together made headlines around the world.

Yes, probably where the TV executives got the idea for the show from. So, Daily Mail, it is your fault as well!

Wendy, 66, was flown home to a future of haunting loneliness and poverty. She and her husband had sold their four-bedroom home to pay off debts, and after her return she was unable to keep up payments on the flat they had rented.
Despite the tensions, Lisa had greeted her mother's return with childish and undisguised glee. But the happy reunion between mother and daughter was not to last. Unable even to pay her meagre rent, Wendy suffered a breakdown.

I would argue she had already had a breakdown. Hence the suicide pact…

She flew back to Tenerife in April 2005 and took a ferry to La Gomera, where she swallowed 60 sleeping pills and waded into the water. Plucked once again from the sea, she recalled: "I wanted nothing more than to die."
A few weeks later she returned to Tenerife, swallowed more pills and plunged into the sea. Once more she was rescued. A few weeks later she made a fourth attempt to kill herself, on Lanzarote.

I really hope other people aren’t putting themselves at risk to rescue this woman.

This time she was determined not to fail. She weighed herself down with stones tied around her neck and took 60 sleeping pills before she entered the water.
But the pills were not the same as she had taken before and, finding herself unable to lose consciousness, she returned to shore. She was spotted by a hotel rep and rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped.

If a Daily Mail hate figure had made repeated attempts to kill themselves (say, Pete Doherty), then no doubt we would be treated to a hysterical rant about how he was wasting the resources of the rescue services.

Once she had recovered, Wendy was sent back to the UK, where she was first placed in a hostel before an organisation for the homeless offered her a bedsit in a sheltered accommodation block on the Wirral, and a £5-an-hour job washing dishes.

From my time working as a supermarket manager I can tell you that £5 an hour is not a bad wage. Not great, but some people are on less.

After she had paid her £65-a-week rent, she had little money left. "I hardly ever eat," she said at the time. "But to be honest, I'm not in the mood to."

This woman doesn’t eat and repeatedly tries to kill herself. Perhaps she is the one who should be sectioned rather than her daughter.

Meanwhile Lisa, who was naturally distraught at her mother's repeated suicide attempts and was coming to terms with the loss of her father, stayed in a local authority bed and breakfast in Southport.
Though there was no joy in their existence, perhaps in time Wendy and her daughter might have found solace in one another's company.

I hope Wendy doesn’t read this article. It is so fucking depressing that it might push her over the edge. Once again.

But that was not to reckon with the making of the film Mysterious Creatures.
Its imminent release caused Lisa recently to speak out, disputing her parents’ claims of her excessive spending and aggressive personality, and the assertion she suffers from Asperger's syndrome.
She insisted she had never threatened her parents or bought 2,000 pairs of shoes. And she said she was worried Mysterious Creatures would show her incorrectly as mentally ill and violent.
"I am really scared that it will portray me as being autistic and violent, which I am not," she says.

Ignoring the fact that there is no direct link between autism and violence (autistic people can be violent, but so can non-autistic people) all we have heard so far is the story of the parents. The story of two people who were so unstable that they entered into a suicide pact. And one of whom served time for theft. For stealing from his customers. Lisa has a right to tell her story as well.

While both mother and daughter are clearly troubled, Lisa's recent comments have thrown new light on the story of the Ainscows.
Lisa was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2003. She was detained for ten months. Yet in medical reports released earlier this year, a Wirral mental health tribunal claimed the erratic 'behaviour of the applicant when at liberty was largely as a result of a catastrophically poor parenting regime'.

Quite. I refer you to the earlier comment I made about bad parenting.

The panel, which ordered Lisa's release from Clatterbridge Hospital in the Wirral, where she was being detained, stated they were 'not satisfied that the patient is suffering from mental illness, psychopathic disorder, severe mental impairment, or mental impairment or any other forms of disorder'.

You know what, I am going to go with the experts in the Hospital to assess Lisa’s mental health. Not the mother, not me and certainly not The Daily fucking Mail.

According to Lisa, it was shortly after her mother returned to Britain following her father's death that TV executives persuaded her to sell the screen rights for her story.
Although doubtful at first, faced with a contract offering money for the rights to her 'exclusive story', her mother signed on the dotted line and so did she.

Not really the fault of the TV execs, then, is it?

Before her most recent suicide attempt, Mrs Ainscow released a statement saying that she was 'devastated that her daughter Lisa should choose to speak so bitterly' about her.

Devastated, maybe. But she shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Wendy has had no problems with talking bitterly about her daughter.

Perhaps her daughter's comments, allied to the imminent screening of the film, were enough to drive her over the edge once more.

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Lurid speculation.

This week, Wendy's lawyer agreed that she was traumatised by the publicity in the build-up to the screening.

Strikes me that Wendy has been traumatised by a great deal. The TV programme is likely to be a very minor part of that. After all, her first few suicide attempts were before the TV programme started to be publicised.

David Kirwan, who is also a long-time friend, said: "She is under immense strain with the tragic events of the past couple of years, due to be covered in the ITV drama at the end of this month."

David Kirwan managed to say nothing that is not blindingly obvious for anyone with half a brain cell then.

While hospital spokesmen in Tenerife have been declaring Wendy's condition to be 'stable', a television spokeswoman for ITV expressed "shock at the latest development".
She added: "Our hearts go out to Wendy and hopefully she will make a full recovery."
It seems unlikely this brittle woman will make a full recovery, and perhaps one day she will achieve her macabre wish to go to a watery grave like her beloved husband.

Well, if she keeps on trying she probably will succeed one day.

But surely she has suffered enough melodrama without millions witnessing her tragic story on TV.

Maybe Wendy shouldn’t watch the TV programme then?

The Daily Mail. Their message is "it’s your fault, unless you are middle-aged and middle class. In which case it is anyone’s fault bar yours."


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