UK dads who lost their daughters to suicide finish 300-mile walk

Three fathers who lost their daughters to suicide crossed the finish line of a 300-mile walk from Cumbria to Greater Manchester to Norfolk on Saturday.

Three Dads Walking – which has attracted donations from actors Daniel Craig and, most recently, Nicole Kidman – has raised more than £500,000 for suicide prevention charity Papyrus.

As Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen arrived in Shouldham, Norfolk, just after 9.30am, they were welcomed by dozens of cheering supporters lining the route.

The walk, which they started in memory of their daughters two weeks ago, took them from Airey’s home in Morland, Cumbria, to Palmer’s home town of Sale, in Greater Manchester, before finishing at Owen’s home in Norfolk.

The three men’s daughters died within three years of one other.

Airey’s daughter Sophie, 29, took her own life just before Christmas in 2018. Palmer’s daughter Beth, 17, and Owen’s daughter Emily, 18, killed themselves in March 2020.

Owen said they had received incredible support and kindness during their 15-day journey and had met “hundreds” of people affected by suicide.

As he crossed the finishing line, Airey said it had been a “very pleasant stroll”.

He told the BBC: “We have been talking about our girls all day every day so it’s like they are travelling with us all the time.

“We have always got a hole in our lives that are our girls, but it has been fantastic to share some time with a lot of people and help some people along the way.”

Palmer said the experience had been “overwhelming”. He said he hoped they had helped raise money and awareness of the help available to people who are thinking about suicide.

Afterwards the fathers reportedly went to the village pub together.

The chief executive of Papyrus, Ged Flynn, said the three fathers were “lifesavers” who had “shattered stigma”.

Their original fundraising target was £3,000 each, but their mission attracted huge interest from the public and celebrities including Kidman, Craig and former Manchester United star Lou Macari, who each donated about £10,000.

Kidman said she was “profoundly moved” by the fathers after hearing about their story on BBC Breakfast News.

She said: “Three completely brilliant dads, doing a completely brilliant thing, to benefit so many. Ahead of them finishing their epic trek on Saturday, and inspired by Daniel Craig who backed them at the outset of their journey, I am matching his £10,000 to support their excellent fundraising efforts.

“Given the circumstances of the past 18 months and the impact of the pandemic, especially on the young, their work is particularly important right now. I would like to dedicate my donation to the memory of Beth, Sophie and Emily.”

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