'I was on the phone when he died - I heard everything:' British footballer's girlfriend reveals how he died

By Mirror: Tuesday, February 13th 2018 at 10:44 GMT +3 | Sports
Chris Mitchell [Photo: Courtesy]

The heart-broken girlfriend of a tragic footballer who took his own life has revealed that she was speaking to him on the phone when he was hit by a speeding train.

Louise Rooney has shared the harrowing last few moments of former Queen of the South footballer Chris Mitchell's life for the first time since his death.

She was in London at the time of that tragic final phone call and refused to believe it could have happened but she quickly saw that routes had been cancelled due to someone being hit by a train on an app on her phone.

Chris, 27, who suffered from depression and anxiety, had dropped her off for a trip to London, hugged her and told her to have a great time just hours before he tragically took his own life.

His devastated partner said that when she remembers their last embrace she can still find no clue that the man she loved would take his own life the next day.

But approximately 24 hours later Chris died and Louise, 29, was on the phone to him at the time, the Daily Record reports.

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She finds it too painful to talk about those two terrifying hours when, from more than 400 miles away, she frantically did her best to keep in contact with Chris, his family who were searching for him and even the police.

Speaking for the first time about the tragedy, which shocked Scotland, Louise said: “I was on the phone to Chris when he died – I heard everything – but still I couldn’t believe it.

“I had a train app on my phone and I remember looking at that and quite quickly it came up that services had been cancelled on that line due to someone being hit by a train but I kept hoping it couldn’t be true.

“Chris had everything to live for but he was ill and he kept it hidden. Before he could get the help he needed, he took his own life.”

Louise has spoken about Chris’s death as she tries to rebuild her life and her pain is still very raw.

Scotland under-21 international Chris had also played for Falkirk, Livingston and Bradford City.

He started to suffer mental health problems after failing to fully recover from major spinal surgery.

His career slumped and, instead of remaining a well-paid full-time professional footballer, he found himself juggling a job in a factory with playing part-time for Clyde FC.

Just months before his death, he made the difficult decision to hang up his boots to take up a new job working for his uncle’s family business as a salesman.

But eight weeks into his training he admitted he was struggling with depression and, two weeks later, took his own life.

Louise, who had been dating Chris for a year before his death, said: “Depression and anxiety can happen to anyone in any career but football is a particularly brutal profession.

“Before you know it, you can be out of favour for whatever reason, you are out of the squad and then you can be dropping down the leagues.

“Chris had left school at 16 and grown up as a footballer. He loved the game, his teammates, the dressing room banter – he loved it all. Then suddenly it all changed.

“When I met him, he was just joining Clyde and obviously he was sad at the way things had worked out. But he seemed like he was coping well.

“He was a funny, kind, caring guy who was close to his family. I moved into his flat, we got a puppy together, Indy, and we were really happy.”

Louise says that, with hindsight, she can now see signs Chris wasn’t coping with giving up his football career as easily as he liked others to believe.

She said: “Many of Chris’s best friends were the boys he had grown up playing football with but Chris started distancing himself from them.

“He would make excuses for not seeing people and lost interest in doing things he’d done before.”

Two weeks before his death, Chris went for a walk with his older sister Laura and admitted how he felt. She alerted Louise and Chris’s parents Philip and Brenda and took him to the doctors.

He was prescribed medication and referred to see a psychologist.

Louise said: “For the next week, Chris stayed with his mum and dad so they could look after him. At night I would go round and we’d take Indy for a walk and he seemed to be doing OK.

“He stopped taking the medication – it made him feel ill – but it seemed like a relief to him that he had finally opened up and he could be honest about how he was feeling.”

After a week, Chris returned to the flat he shared with Louise in Bannockburn, Stirling. When she told him she was cancelling her trip to celebrate a friend’s birthday in London, he insisted she go.

“But Chris isn’t here so now we’ve set up the foundation. And if we can help even just one person, I know Chris would be very proud.”

Louise said: “He dropped me off on the Friday morning and I was on the phone to him throughout that day and evening.

“He told me he had been painting our spare room and he sent me a photo of Indy lying on the couch with a new ball and toy he had bought her.”

But by the next morning, things had changed. Louise said: “Chris phoned me just before 10am and it was obvious things weren’t good.”

Louise cannot even talk about the details of what happened next.

Chris had previously told his sister he had considered committing suicide at a level crossing in Cornton, Stirling.

His dad had raced to the spot but arrived too late to save his son.

Louise said: “It wasn’t until Chris’s dad phoned me that I started to believe what had happened.

“It’s been almost two years now and I haven’t come to terms with it – I’m not sure I ever will – but I’m moving forward, which I know is what Chris would want. I’m very close to Chris’s family and he loved Indy so much that I feel she’s a part of him I still have with me all the time.”

Louise and Chris’s family marked the first anniversary of his death last year by starting the Chris Mitchell Foundation, who aim to raise awareness of mental health issues and promote wellbeing within football.

The charity are working with the SPFL Trust to provide mental health first aid training to clubs across Scotland.

They also run a scholarship programme offering IT courses and other skills to help players find new careers after football.

Former teammates of Chris last week released a video in which they open their hearts about their friendship and their devastation at his loss.

Louise said: “On the day before Chris’s death, he got in touch with friends he hadn’t seen for a long time. He went to visit the training ground at Clyde and was giving away his football tops.

“We didn’t find out until weeks later but it’s as if he had planned what he was going to do.

“Football has this macho, bravado image, where players have historically not wanted to show any weakness but they need to learn it’s OK to talk.

“Football was Chris’s life and, if there had been trained mental health first-aiders within the clubs he played for, I like to think he would have gone for help and would be speaking out himself, telling his own story to help others.

 

 

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