Forced to listen as my boyfriend was killed
Louise Rooney, 29, from Livingston, Scotland describes the worst phone call of her life
I’d always imagined that footballers were flashy and over confident, but Chris Mitchell was nothing like that. Watching him playing with our excitable new Labrador puppy, Indy, my heart melted.
‘Isn’t she gorgeous?’ he beamed, rolling around on the floor with her.
Chris, 27, was the most generous, warm-hearted man I’d ever met.
I’d been single three years before we met in June 2015 through friends.
He was a talented footballer who had played for the Scotland under-21s and other clubs before settling at Clyde Football Club.
Handsome Chris loved everything about the game, especially playing alongside lads he’d grown up with.
We texted for a month and I soon discovered there wasn’t a bad bone in his body.
He was funny and devoted to his family, dad Philip, mum Brenda, and his older sister Laura.
Soon we were inseparable, and by that November, I’d moved into his flat. Everything was perfect. We even talked about getting married and having kids one day.
‘Indy is the first step towards our little family,’ I laughed as we fussed over her. But soon, Chris was struggling. He’d suffered a spinal injury in training, which meant he needed surgery on his back.
‘I can’t play football full time any more,’ he said, pain in his eyes.
By January 2016, his dreams of being a footballer were over and he got a sales job to pay the bills. I knew it wasn’t the life he’d planned, but Chris forced a smile. ‘It’s OK, I’ll still see the lads all the time,’ he said. But over the next few months, Chris made excuses to avoid them. I thought he’d be down the club all the time, watching matches and hanging out with his friends, but he seemed happier just staying at home. Stepping away from the life he loved was taking its toll. That April, Laura told me she was worried. ‘Chris told me that he’s really missing football and he’s feeling really low,’ she said. I was shocked. Chris had never mentioned it before and I was upset to know he was suffering in silence. As a family, we did our best to shower him with love and support.
We encouraged him to see his GP, who prescribed antidepressants and referred him to a psychotherapist. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘You were right, I needed help.’ Chris took time off and went to stay with his parents for a week so that he wasn’t alone while I was at work as a financial assistant.
He was in my thoughts constantly and I made sure he knew we were all there for him.
‘Things will get better,’ I reassured him.
Chris seemed relieved that he’d shared what he was going through and when we spoke, he sounded upbeat and positive.
But the same week, Chris told Laura that he’d been having suicidal thoughts. It was devastating. Chris was such a popular man, with amazing qualities and everything to live for.
But having his dream taken away from him had sent him into a downward spiral that he was struggling to see past.
With us all around him, being supportive, I was sure we could get him through it. On the weekend of
May 7, I had a friend’s birthday party in London, 400 miles away.
‘I won’t go,’ I insisted to Chris. ‘I’ll stay with you.’ Chris wasn’t having any of it. He dropped me at the station and gave me a hug goodbye. ‘Have a great time,’ he smiled. Chris went back to our home and later that day, he sent me a photo of Indy lying on the sofa with a new toy.
He sounded happy and I started to relax.
But the next morning, at 10.10am, Chris called me in tears.
‘Things aren’t good,’ he sobbed. ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I begged him to talk to me, but I couldn’t calm him down.
Frantic, I called his family and they went round to our flat, but Chris wasn’t there.
Everyone, even the police, tried to find him. So far away, I was beside myself. Then at 11.40am, Chris called. There was so much noise in the background, I could hardly hear him.
‘I’m so sorry Louise, but I can’t do this anymore. I want you and Indy to know how much I love you,’ he cried. The line cut off… Collapsing to the floor screaming, I knew what had happened.
Within minutes, an app on my phone confirmed my worst fears.
Trains around the level crossing at Corton, Stirling, were disrupted due to an accident. Chris had been on the phone to me as he’d stepped in front of a speeding train. Life became a blur. Philip had raced to the level crossing, as Chris had mentioned it before, but he was too late.
I caught the next flight home and grieved with Chris’ family.
We were all consumed with guilt. Could we have done more? But I was also so angry.
‘Why has he done this to us?’ I cried.
As we planned his funeral, it just seemed unreal.
Chris had his whole life in front of him – a life we’d planned together.
Now it had vanished and I was left in a trance.
Hundreds of people turned out to say goodbye to him.
If only Chris could have seen just how loved he was.
As we struggled to come to terms with everything, Chris’ family and I set up a memorial foundation in his name.
We’re also training mentalhealth first aiders within Scottish football clubs and connecting players with agencies to promote positive mental health.
It’s impossible for me to not torture myself over losing Chris.
I replay every conversation we had, wonder what I could have done differently.
But Chris killed himself just two weeks after we discovered he was depressed.
We didn’t know just how dark his thoughts had actually become.
I don’t think Chris really did, until it was too late.
I’ve had counselling, but two years on, I know I’ll never truly heal from the trauma of it all.
I think about Chris every day and will love him forever. With
him always in my thoughts, I’ve tried my best to rebuild my life. I have a new partner, Alan, 30, and we’re expecting a baby girl together this month.
We still have Indy and she reminds me of the happy times I spent with Chris.
Football is a world of bravado and players are reluctant to show any weakness.
They feel like they have to give the impression everything is fine – even when it really isn’t.
We’ll continue to raise awareness so that everyone, male or female, knows it’s OK to ask for help.
Reaching out is the first step in preventing more tragedies like the one we have to live with every day.
Chris told me he couldn’t go on
We rallied round to support him
Our puppy Indy was the start of our family
Chris was devastated when his football career ended I miss him every day
Don’t suffer in silence