HE WAS the love of her life. But for the final few months of Peter Maher’s life before he was found drowned face down in a swimming pool, Emma Hayden feared the man she had once idolised would hunt her down and kill her after stabbing her with a knife.
Ms Hayden characterised the final weeks of Mr Maher’s life as being ‘unhinged’ and ‘erratic’ after the 50-year-old’s disturbing turns that left him unrecognisable from the ‘life and soul of the party’ individual she had fallen in love with after they met in 1993.
At Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, Ms Hayden poured her heart out over the agony she went through in 2015 as Mr Maher’s behaviour spiralled out of control – resulting in his move from the family’s London home to his mum’s house in Emsworth after he was given a restraining order.
Flare-ups between the pair became increasingly common and threatening. ‘He was screaming and shouting at me and saying how I had destroyed his life. I was pleading for him to let me go. But he cornered me and said “you’re not going anywhere. I’m going to destroy you”,’ a distraught Ms Hayden told a jury inquest.
‘He then started punching me. I went into a ball to protect myself. The next thing I remember he had stabbed my son in the neck and stabbed me in the ear. I didn’t recognise that man. That wasn’t Pete. I was so terrified.
‘When the police arrested him, he asked, “what for?” He had no recollection of what he did. When he realised, he broke down crying. He was devastated and wanted to be punished for what he did. He was so low.’
Ms Hayden and her son made full recoveries from the violent attack. She never ruled out getting back together, though she knew she could not risk living with him or putting their three children at risk while he was in such a deranged state.
In July 2015 he moved to his mum’s house in Emsworth but that provided little respite for Ms Hayden and the rest of the family with Mr Maher’s mood swings becoming worse.
The family tried to do all they could to get him help after he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but Ms Hayden said: ‘No-one helped Peter or us.’
Living with his 81-year-old mum, Mr Maher became consumed by guilt while feeling cut adrift from his family, leading to suicide threats and attempts. One of these included a botched attempt where he tried to tie his hands and feet together while naked before throwing himself into the pool.
Mr Maher had told Ms Hayden the ‘inevitable’ would happen. And on September 21, 2015, he was found dead by his distraught mum in her swimming pool. Pathologist Adnan Al-Badri said Mr Maher died from drowning but told the inquest the deceased had coronary artery disease which could have led to cardiac arrest.
The jury’s verdict was that he ‘died as the result of an accident’.
Peter’s mother Rita Maher made a statement that was read out at the inquest.
‘It was a harrowing and exhausting few months when Peter came to live with me. He was a different person. I had no idea how fragile he was. I tried to keep him busy by giving him projects but all he would talk about is whether his partner would taken him back and would his kids forgive him. He felt alienated and cut-off.
‘We tried to get him help from mental health agencies but there was little or no intervention. He needed treatment as an in-patient at hospital.’
Ms Maher said she had two strokes and collapsed, which resulted in her breaking her thigh bone. Despite being ill in hospital, she came home because of her son’s behaviour.
‘I’d never seen him like that before,’ she said. ‘He felt so let down. He laid his head on my lap and was sobbing saying ‘she’ll never forgive me.’
‘I didn’t realise how fragile he was. I knew he had a history of violence but it had taken a different direction after he had come down to stay with me. He made attempts to kill himself including when he tied his hands and feet together and jumped into the pool. When it did not work he joked he did not do it right and ran off laughing.’
On the day he died, Ms Maher said: ‘I came downstairs to find him in the pool gulping water, grunting to himself. I tried to grab him but couldn’t reach. I called police but they said as he was not in imminent danger I should call the ambulance. By the time they turned up it was too late to save him.’
A police spokesman said: ‘The call handler classified the call as a mental health episode. In line with deployment policy, the call was transferred to South Central Ambulance Service to respond as they were the primary agency in mental health incidents.’