A devoted dad killed himself and his severely disabled son the day after his wife died because he could not cope with caring for him alone, an inquest heard today.
Tormented Sonnie Gigg, 70, drove his Peugeot 307 into a dock with his son Lincoln, 38, and the family’s two Yorkshire terriers Mitzy and Poppy in the vehicle.
They all drowned and police divers later found Sonnie and Lincoln’s bodies still strapped into their seats in the submerged vehicle.
The inquest heard that Sonnie was motivated by a ”sense of hopelessness” following the sudden death of his wife June, 70.
Lincoln, who had a mental age of a three-year-old, required 24-hour care and the couple would take it in turns to look after him throughout the night.
Gloucestershire coroner Alan Crickmore ruled that Sonnie had taken his own life and that Lincoln was unlawfully killed.
He said: ”Lincoln could not consent to the actions of his father and when his father chose to take Lincoln’s life in this way he did so unlawfully – although perhaps one can understand his reasoning.
”I’m quite satisfied that the shock of losing his wife was fundamental to his actions.
”And I’m satisfied that he believed that his ability to care for Lincoln was going to be severely prejudiced by the absence of Mrs Gigg.
”I’m satisfied that he did that out of a sense of hopelessness, a sense that perhaps will be hard for the family to understand given the support that the family was prepared to give and had given in the past.
”But nevertheless in his grief I think Mr Gigg deliberately drove into the dock basin, and in doing so I think he took with him the three things that he was primarily the carer for – namely his dear son and the two dogs.
”Mr Gigg was taking away the responsibility he could no longer face.”
Lincoln was completely dependent on his parents after being born with fetal rubella damage which left him deaf, dumb, and with profound learning disabilities.
He needed 24-hour care and was washed, shaved, fed and dressed by his parents who only had a few hours of respite each day when he attended the Siblands Resource and Activity Centre in nearby Thornbury, South Glos.
June and Sonnie would take shifts during the night to watch over their beloved son, who had the mental age of a three-year-old, as he would sometimes get up and walk around the house.
On October 7th, 2007, June Gigg suddenly passed away at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol after contracting septicaemia from a perforated bowel following a prolapse operation.
The inquest at Gloucester Shire Hall heard that her death ”shocked” the family as the operation was supposed to be routine.
The court also heard that Sonnie had previously described to a GP that he was ”anxious” about caring for Lincoln on his own while June was in hospital.
Just before 7:30pm on October 8th Sonnie drove Lincoln, sitting in his usual seat behind his father, along with the family’s two dogs to the Sharpness Docks in Gloucester.
He went through an unlocked access gate – which at the time was in public use – before driving ”at speed” towards the tidal basin.
The car plunged into the water and both men and the dogs drowned.
Police and emergency services found Mr Gigg’s wallet and children’s colouring books, along with other items, floating on the surface when they arrived at the scene but the car was submerged.
They had to wait for the tide to drop before they could recover the vehicle with a crane and the assistance of dock workers. Sonnie and Lincoln still had their seatbelts on inside.
Speaking after the inquest Sonnie’s three sons spoke about their ”loving” and ”devoted” dad – who they believe ”thought he was doing the right thing”.
Dean Gigg, 48, from Bristol, said: ”Mum and dad were devoted to all of us. We were four brothers, Lincoln being the youngest, and they did everything they could for us their whole lives.
”Lincoln had been cared for all his life by mum and dad, and he hated change, and we think dad was probably taking the burden away from the rest of the family and keeping themselves together.”
Brother Mark Gigg, 49, added: ”We think he wanted us just to live our lives with our own families.”