Father of speedway star Danny Ayres said he was ‘too embarrassed’ to get help, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 15:06 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 22:22 27 July 2020

Speedway star Danny Ayres tragically died on February 1 Picture: STEVE WALLER www.stephenwaller.com

Speedway star Danny Ayres tragically died on February 1 Picture: STEVE WALLER www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

The family of speedway star Danny Ayres, who was due to ride for Ipswich Witches this summer, said he “did not get the help he needed” in the lead-up to his tragic death.

Danny Ayres had agreed a deal to ride for Ipswich Witches in 2020  Picture: CAROL DOWNIEDanny Ayres had agreed a deal to ride for Ipswich Witches in 2020 Picture: CAROL DOWNIE

Danny Ayres, 33, from Bury St Edmunds, was found hanged at his home in Girton Close, in Mildenhall, on the morning of February 1, leading to an outpouring of grief from the speedway community.

Despite the best efforts of paramedics and Danny’s partner Jodie Pledge - who he had two children with and had known since the age of 17 - the popular speedway star was pronounced dead.

An inquest, which concluded at Suffolk Coroner’s Court on Monday, July 27, heard that Danny felt “embarrassed” to get help and had been struggling with drugs and was in a “dark place” when he wasn’t training.

His father David Ayres said that following his mum’s death to cancer in 2017, Danny found it “difficult to come to terms with” his loss.

Danny Ayres with his partner Jodie Pledge after a speedway event Picture: FAMILYDanny Ayres with his partner Jodie Pledge after a speedway event Picture: FAMILY

He also suffered with his mental health in 2019 when he broke his leg, and his dad David said he found the highs and lows of being a professional sportsman a challenge.

He said he turned to alcohol when he was feeling low, and then looked to drugs to pick him back up.

David said “the drugs would bring out demons in Danny” and he would be positive throughout the speedway season, when he had structure and routine, and he had “bad feelings” for the rest of the year.

His partner Jodie, said that through the season he was “a training machine” and described him as being “perfect”.

Friends and teammates of Danny Ayres completed a lap of Mildenhall Fen Tigers' track in his memory Picture: Charlotte BondFriends and teammates of Danny Ayres completed a lap of Mildenhall Fen Tigers' track in his memory Picture: Charlotte Bond

“Out-of-season from October to March was an absolute struggle. He just couldn’t sit still, his brain never stopped.”

Senior Suffolk coroner Nigel Parsley, who took the inquest, heard that the night before Danny’s death, an argument broke out with his partner Jodie of six years, after he was found using drugs in the family home.

The speedway star, who had signed to ride for the club in the premiership this summer, had been drinking all night and said he “felt worthless”.

The inquest heard a statement from Danny’s GP at Reynard Surgery, Dr Manickasamy, said the father had spoken about his struggles with cocaine, but said he didn’t want to go on antidepressants.

Dr Manickasamy said Danny was referred to Turning Point, which helps with substance misuse, and said there was not a clear diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

His partner Jodie said Danny didn’t take drugs during the season and his father David said that when he wasn’t a star he had “too much time to think”.

Jodie said: “He didn’t struggle in speedway, he felt he belonged there. He was two different people.”

David said that the week prior to his death Danny was “so positive about 2020” and was “in a good place”.

He said: “We felt he was turning a corner on what he wanted to achieve.”

Danny, who has a child from a previous relationship, received a visit from social services in the days before his death regarding his child.

The inquest heard that this visit may have had an impact on Danny’s state of mind.

A post-mortem found that Danny had alcohol in his blood, but was not drunk, and he tested positive for cocaine.

The coroner concluded that he died as a result of suicide.

Mr Parsley said: “No note was found and there was no evidence that anyone could have predicted any actions in relation to his death.

“There was no way anyone could have foreseen what Danny was going to do that morning.”

Concluding, Mr Parsley said Danny must have intended the act.

■ If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours, seven days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple and Android.


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