Andy’s tragic fall from riches to rags – and his grief-stricken son who struggles to come to terms with his loss
- Credit: Archant
He went from living in a £500,000 Norfolk home, employing up to 200 seasonal workers with a turnover of £30,000 a week, to a homeless hostel.
The speed of Andy Lee’s fall from grace was sudden and catastrophic and followed the break-up of a marriage he believed would be forever.
In subsequent years he sought treatment for mental health issues, was less choosy with his friends and was rarely again ever able to work.
In September, his body was recovered from the River Nene at Wisbech.
In a suicide note to his family he wrote: “I love you but I can’t take no more. Love dad, xxxxxxx”.
You may also want to watch:
Behind the headlines of his death is a remarkable story of a beloved father and of a grief-stricken son, Mark, who struggles daily to come to terms with the loss.
“I always say to Emily, my wife, I can deal with mum and dad divorcing – no big deal,” he said.
- 1 'Loving, caring family man' dies in hospital weeks after A141 crash
- 2 Work to improve A47 between March and Peterborough begins
- 3 7 of the best pumpkin picking locations in Cambridgeshire
- 4 Butcher Ron to hang up his hat after 64 years
- 5 Dramatic pictures catch harvester on fire in 4am blaze
- 6 Police pursuit of suspected hare coursers ends in success
- 7 Paramedics warn of 'tents in car parks' amid mental health crisis
- 8 Illegal poachers stopped in their tracks by eagle-eyed public
- 9 Granddaughter launches bid to help others thanks to football legend
- 10 Board says Covid-19 figures are ‘stable’ at City hospital
“I can get over losing the lifestyle we had either ... but one thing I didn’t want to lose was my dad.
“You can take everything else away but not that.”
So many friends and family posted messages of their love for Andy Lee that it took days for his family to edit them into the order of service booklet prepared for the funeral.
“I just can’t believe, you were a funny, lovely bloke,” wrote one.
Another spoke of a “great man never to be forgotten” and another referred to him as “a great guy who would do anything for anyone”.
But on the inside Andy Lee was hurting badly, grieving for the suddenness of his marriage break down 13 years earlier and facing a challenging court case.
He was about to stand trial for his role in a drugs case involving some of those he had befriended in recent years.
His son Mark said: “I’m not sure what role he played but someone involved in drugs is not up to their eyeballs in debt.
“I have a list of letters from people chasing him for money – ranging from Anglian Water to a finance company.”
Over the years, said Mark, his father had supported charities, once took medical equipment to Romania and did a charity run in Peterborough.
“He was a hard-working kind of person and in some ways cared too much about everyone else and not always so much about himself,” said Mark. “That’s why he ended up in so much trouble at the end.
“He used to lie to me before he died. I knew he had no money and no job – and knew roughly what benefits he was getting. But when I quizzed him he would say ‘I’m fine’ because he didn’t want me to worry, to know the truth. I wish he had.
“Money was an issue for him – quite simply he was in debt.”
Mark says his father lived modestly – often surviving on £1 frozen pizzas.
There were happy times – last June Andy attended Mark’s wedding and put on a brave face.
But a few months later he took his own life.
Two suicide notes were revealed to coroner William Morris at an inquest into Andy’s death, last Wednesday.
The first, written on a page of lined stationery, apologised and said: “I couldn’t take any more. I tried but this has been too much for me. You know I loved you all but I can’t take any more.”
On the following page he referred to the forthcoming trial: “I wouldn’t be able to afford getting there and back as it will be an eight-week trial. I didn’t want to do this but there was no way for me to avoid this”.
Mark believes the court case to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Mark said: “I asked ‘will you go to prison’ and he said it was unlikely.
“He used to drive one of the Wardens (a co-defendant) around because he couldn’t drive. He was effectively his lackey.
“You could say when he was arrested in Yorkshire he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mark added: “Dad knew Warden was a drug dealer – he told him that in front of me and said he wanted no part of it. But he said if he wanted a lift he would do that.”
Over the years Andy went slowly downhill, said Mark, who had been expecting to work for his father at a factory which he was set to buy prior to the marriage breakdown.
Mark then switched to training as an accountant “since I thought it would be helpful if dad ever got back into business”.
Mark said: “After dad died I wished I could have been there to help him. It is upsetting to know he is no longer going to be there for me.
“I cope the best I can by trying not to think about it – the more I think about it the more it upsets me.”
• Andy Lee took his own life when the pressure of facing conspiracy to supply class A drugs charges became too much for him to handle.
His inquest, last Wednesday, heard he was on bail when he told his legal team that he was worried about the prospect and costs of a possible eight-week crown court case travelling daily to London.
He was unhappy about becoming embroiled in criminal offences and intended to plead not guilty, the inquest heard.
On August 22 Andy met with his solicitors and told them he was anxious about the case and travel costs. On September 6 his body was found in the River Nene near Wisbech police station.
The inquest heard that his legal team had no clue that he intended to harm himself and it seemed like the normal fears of a man facing a trial.
Coroner William Morris said: “I do not know how he entered the water or when but the evidence is very clear that he took his own life.” As summer progressed, Andy had various meetings with his legal team in preparation for a trial which was planned for either Blackfriars or Snaresbrook. In the end it was heard in Cambridge Crown Court, just before Christmas. Mr Morris was told that in 2010, Andy took an overdose of 120 morphine tablets and spent three months in a psychiatric unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn.
In November 2013 he spent two weeks in a psychiatric ward but was discharged when they felt he was no longer at risk of self-harm.
There were zopiclone sleeping pills, pain relief medication and alcohol found in his system but the inquest heard that it was not possible to tell if it had been taken in excessive amounts or how long it had been consumed before taking his life.