Great-grandad killed himself as he 'couldn't cope' with tragic death of girl, 2, after she swallowed battery, family say

A GREAT-GRANDAD killed himself as he "couldn't cope" with the sudden death of his two-year-old great-granddaughter, his family say.

Little Harper-Lee Fanthorpe died after swallowing a remote control button battery which burned through her food pipe and into a major artery.

Peter Nicklin, 79, struggled to come to terms with her tragic passing in May, with his son Darren describing him as not being himself.

He had also not been unable to attend the youngster's funeral, telling his family it "would finish him off".

Darren, Harper-Lee's grandad, said: "He loved life. He loved it.

"We never thought he’d have it in him. You saw the change in him.

"He went from happy-go-lucky, one of the lads, to he just wasn’t himself. We can’t believe he’s done it.

"He just changed when our Harper passed. He couldn’t cope with it."

Darren continued: "People that age, they can’t cope with losing youngsters.

"The day after he said, ‘why didn’t they take me instead of her?’ He just couldn’t cope with it.

"We were getting a bit of normality, focusing. He just wouldn’t talk about it. I think he bottled everything up. We’re devastated.

"I think he was thinking about it all the time. He stopped going down to the allotment. He was just sitting in the house.

"I think it just kept running through his head."

Peter died on August 15 at his home in Hanley, Staffordshire, almost three months after Harper-Lee died.

An inquest has now opened into his death, with the hearing being told he had been founded hanged.


Relatives described Peter as a family man who was deeply proud of his three children Darren, Carl, and Claire, as well as his wife Pauline, who he survived.

Darren added: "He loved all his grandkids. He was very family oriented my dad.

"He mellowed as he got older, especially with the grandkids, because we had a fairly strict upbringing.

"He was one of the lads. A hard worker. They knew him round Hanley as ‘The Beard’ because he’d got a big beard."

Peter was also passionate about his allotment, but his interest waned after Harper-Lee's death.

He went from happy-go-lucky, one of the lads, to he just wasn’t himself. We can’t believe he’s done it

"If we could have got him a bed down there he’d have stayed down there at night I think," said Darren. "The allotment was his life."

Since Harper-Lee's tragic death, her mum Stacey and local MP Jo Gideon, have been campaigning for new laws to protect children from the dangers of button batteries.

Earlier in the summer Mrs Gideon introduced a Bill in the Commons, dubbed Harper-Lee's Law, which is due to be debated later in the year.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging the government to take action to help prevent future deaths from button batteries.

You’re Not Alone

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM,, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together,
  • Mind,, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus,, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans,, 116 123
  • Movember,
  • Anxiety UK, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm


If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.

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