An antiques dealer who was £1.5 million in debt took his own life to make sure his wife did not live in financial difficulty, an has inquest heard.
John East-Rigby, 65, told his wife Cherry ‘don’t worry, everything is going to be alright’ shortly before shooting himself in a horse box outside his £2 million home.
Mr East-Rigby had wanted to ensure his widow was in ‘as much comfort as possible’ because of his life insurance payout and the equity in their large country house in Mockbeggar, the New Forest, Hampshire.
The couple took over Molly’s Den Emporium in October 2017 which at the time had five stores across Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire selling various antiques.
Antiques dealer John East-Rigby, 65, was £1.5 million in debt when he took his own life in May this year to make sure his wife, pictured together, did not live in financial difficulty
However, the shops were not as profitable as they were led to believe and at the time of Mr East-Rigby’s death on May 8 this year they only had three stores.
Mr East-Rigby had hoped a rate rebate would help his finances but before his death he heard the appeal, which would have returned £60,000 to £80,000, had failed.
Mrs East-Rigby said the last time she saw her husband was at their six-bedroom home on May 8 when he made her a cup of tea.
She said: ‘[He told me] “don’t worry, everything is going to be alright”. I said “what do you mean?” He said “it’s OK”. He turned and walked away and that was the last I saw of him.’
The same day Mrs East-Rigby found a note ‘of despair’ telling her to call the police and when officers arrived they found Mr East-Rigby with a severe wound to his head and a shotgun by his side in the horse box.
One of Mr East-Rigby’s accountants, Laurence Berko, said after buying Molly’s Den the business struggled with cash flow difficulties.
Mr East-Rigby’s GP said he had no serious mental health issues and his wife said her husband’s death had ‘turned her world upside down.’ The antiques dealer is pictured at one of his stores
At an inquest Mrs East-Rigby said her husband ‘put all his personal financial resources into the business which kept traders going for 18 months’. Pictured is a Molly’s Den Emporium
Mr Berko said: ‘John was a lovely man, very caring, a good man. By taking his own life he knew Cherry would be OK.’
When he died his liabilities, much of it secured on his home, had reached £1.5 million.
Acting area coroner Sam Marsh, who returned a verdict of suicide, said: ‘Outwardly John appeared to have a very enviable lifestyle, a lovely home and a happy marriage, a privileged and luxurious lifestyle.
‘But John did appear to be struggling underneath. The only way John could see to get out of this and keep Cherry in as much comfort as possible was to sadly take his own life.’
Following the inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court, Mrs East-Rigby said: ‘Johnny was my husband, my business partner and my best friend. His loss is unbearable and it has turned my world upside down.
The couple, pictured, had taken over five Molly’s Den Emporium stores across Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire in 2017 but by Mr East-Rigby’s death in May they only had three
‘Johnny was fully committed to Molly’s Den and put all his personal financial resources into the business which kept traders going for 18 months.
‘He was aware of how hard the staff worked an all the efforts they put in. We took over Molly’s Den on 16 October 2017 and I feel that Johnny hasn’t been given recognition for what he achieved in such a short time.
‘His hard work kept 200 people in jobs for far longer than if he hadn’t taken over the company.’
Dr Simon Low, Mr East-Rigby’s GP, said he had no serious mental health issues.
When Mr East-Rigby died, only three stores remained in Winchester, Hampshire, and Bournemouth and Christchurch, both Dorset.
The stores were a hub for local traders selling a variety of items including furniture, vintage clothing, records, antiques and jewellery.
Mrs East-Rigby took over the chain after his death in May but the business went bust in July, less than two months later.
Since then, a buyer has been found for Molly’s Den in Bournemouth, and staff there have been given their jobs back.