Cattle breeder killed after double-barrelled shotgun went off in her face

Michele Wilde pictured in 2009, when she won an award for her champion British Blue cattle
Michele Wilde pictured in 2009, when she won an award for her champion British Blue cattle

A former champion cattle breeder was found dead at her Vale home after a shotgun went off in her face, a coroner heard.

Michele Wilde was a successful self-employed cattle breeder but had to sell the herd after developing a back condition.

In place of the cattle, the 53-year-old bought some horses but over time became concerned with the health of the animals and started losing sleep worrying about the farm.

Her anxieties began to build and she suffered from stress and depression, the inquest heard.

Mrs Wilde had previously been the victim of what she branded ‘vicious village gossips’ after she was accused of having an affair in 2009 with the then-vicar at St Michael’s Church in Stewkley, Michelle Morton - the former wife of Mrs Wilde’s most recent partner Michael Morton. The story was widely reported in national newspapers.

On the evening of her death on May 28 this year, Mrs Wilde, of Ridge Farm in Soulbury, visited her GP at around half past five complaining of stress.

In a statement read out at the inquest, General Practitioner Elizabeth Peel said: “It was evident when she arrived she had a very flat mood and made poor eye contact with me.

“She complained that she was very stressed with the farm work and there were significant financial difficulties as well.

“She told me that she had trouble sleeping and would only get a couple of hours sleep a night, but would spend the rest of the evening worrying about the farm.

“At the time she denied she was having any suicidal thoughts and she said she had been given anti-depressants in the past, although she only took less than one month’s worth because they made her feel sleepy.”

Previous medical records read out at the inquest revealed Mrs Wilde had visited a previous GP on a handful of occasions in the past and had been encouraged on numerous occasions to see a counsellor to help with her work-related stress.

The inquest revealed that she went through a divorce in 2008, but GP records maintained that her stress was attributed to her work on the farm.

After returning home from her appointment with the GP, Mrs Wilde agreed to prepare dinner while her partner Michael went to sort out the washing.

Speaking at the inquest, Mr Morton said: “I drove Michelle to the appointment with the GP but I did not go inside with her.

“When she came out she seemed flat but no different from when I took her in. We got home and she seemed pre-occupied, not her usual buoyant and jokey self.

“The two of us played with the dogs for a little while before I brought the washing in and took it upstairs and she started what I thought would be our dinner.

“I was upstairs, above the kitchen, when I heard a bang. It sounded like a muffled crash, and I thought it was just the dogs knocking something off the work top.

“I went downstairs and saw nothing had been chopped up and no dinner prepared, so I looked around the house to find Michele.

“As I approached the office I could smell it. The gun powder. I went down a few steps and opened the office door and that’s when I found her.

“I closed the door and went next door to tell her family.”

Detective Sergeant Simon Johnson, who attended the scene, told the inquest that Michele had been found with a gunshot wound to her face. The double-barrelled shotgun, for which Mrs Wilde held a licence, was found facing upwards from a chair in the office.

Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner for Buckinghamshire Anne Davies said: “Clearly Mrs Wilde was a very successful cattle breeder before she developed her back condition.

“She bought some horses which caused her concerns and she had some intermittent periods of depression but it looks like she did not receive counselling or finish a full course of medication.

“There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death and no evidence of third party involvement.

“What concerns me is that there is no indication of the events surrounding her death - we cannot assume she intended to commit suicide as there was no note and she denied she had any suicidal thoughts.

“We do not know if what happened was the result of a deliberate attempt or an unfortunate accident.

“Therefore I must conclude that Michele Wilde died on May 28 2015 at her home on Ridge Farm as a result of a gunshot injury to the head.”