BRAVE Bob Cole ended his life at the Dignitas suicide clinic yesterday, The Sun reports. His final words to the group gathered by his bedside were: “I am at peace. Thank you, my friends.” Bob, 68, travelled to the Swiss clinic to halt his suffering after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died peacefully moments after taking a lethal drug. At the Dignitas clinic on the outskirts of Zurich at 2.20pm, the retired carpenter got the death he had longed for since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
It was quiet, gentle and, above all, dignified. Bob, 68, had earlier eaten his last meal — a bacon butty for breakfast — and put on his best suit for the occasion before getting in a taxi and heading off to die. And in keeping with his generous spirit, on the morning of his death Bob took the time to thank Sun readers for their support in campaigning to make assisted suicide legal in Britain.
He said: “Thank you, Sun readers, for all your support — and I would especially like to thank my friends, who are with me today. “Given the support that we are witnessing surely it is time for politicians to recognise the need for a change in the law. “The tide is turning, and together we will make our politicians listen.” Brave Bob also wrote a moving last letter to friends as he prepared to take his own life.
The note was filled with jokes at his own expense, and stressed the importance of “fun and friendships”. Bob wrote: “Thanks to you who have written or texted or emailed or called me, or more importantly who have thought of me (even if it was ‘thank f*** the curmudgeonly old bastard is on his way out’). And it’s true, many will have seen my awkward side — but I’m sure you all know I was right all along!
“There comes a time to give up the struggle, and that time has arrived for me. “Of course I would have liked another few years, fishing, walking, being with my old and new friends. Please forgive me if you think I’m being selfish, but there is only so much physical pain one can take.” Bob ended: “Don’t cry for me — remember the good times, and get on and have more.”
Five minutes after Bob passed away, close friend Michael Murray sent out an all-round text message from Bob’s bedside to let friends know that he had gone. In the pre-planned message, Bob urged those left behind to “seize the time”. Bob had travelled 800 miles from his home in Chester to the Swiss clinic, where his wife Ann Hall also ended her life 18 months ago. He enjoyed one last night out, sharing a few beers and laughs with pals including Carol Taylor and close friend David.
Then, accompanied by his friends, Bob left his hotel in central Zurich to set off in a taxi on his final journey. The 30-minute drive east to the nondescript suburb of Pfaffikon, where Dignitas is based, allowed Bob time to reflect on his life. From the taxi window, Switzerland’s picturesque mountains loomed large. Bob was a keen climber until his health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with rare lung cancer mesothelioma.
He knew that now he would never get the chance to scale those soaring peaks. The day had started out with foreboding thunder but as the group arrived at Dignitas at 1pm, the sun broke through the clouds and Pfaffikon was flooded with golden sunlight. It takes a lot of lighting to make Dignitas’ exterior look inviting. The anonymous blue two-storey metal building is set in the middle of an industrial estate.
No one passing by could possibly know that it is a place where people go to die. But although the building appears stark, its interior is far more cosy. While it would never compare to the comfort of his home in Chester, the room in which Bob would spend his final moments was neat and warm. It could pass for a studio flat with its kitchenette, living-dining area and ornate garden.
A doctor arrived and explained the process with Bob and his friends. The formalities were completed and Bob was asked several times if he was sure. Each time he answered with a firm “Yes”. The doctor gave Bob an anti-emetic to stop him being sick, then gave him the lethal drink that would end his life. Yesterday Bob changed his choice of final song from Chris de Burgh’s Here Is Your Paradise to Beethoven’s Ode To Joy — a symbol of his happiness and getting the peace he had long hoped for.
His final words to the tight-knit group surrounding him were: “I am at peace. Thank you, my friends.” A body racked with cancer was now free from pain. A warm and generous man had been given a humane death that was denied him at home in Britain. Loyal friend Michael, 68, was by his side to witness Bob’s final moments. He told The Sun: “He died peacefully and with great dignity. He had a smile on his face.
“The pain is over, he got what he wanted and he died with his friends around him. “The tragedy is that he should have done this at home. The people who accompanied him are now at risk of police investigation for doing something that only came out of compassion.” Suicide is not a crime, but in England and Wales it is illegal to encourage or assist suicide, regardless of where the suicide takes place.
Bob’s friends know they could all face questioning on their return to the UK. The former town councillor’s trip to Dignitas came just 18 months after his wife Ann, 67, ended her life at the clinic. Her health deteriorated within weeks of her diagnosis of supranuclear palsy, a fatal and progressive brain disease, in September 2013. Her quality of life was destroyed as she was soon confined to a wheelchair.
Bob saw his vibrant partner of 34 years going downhill, and two months later the couple wrote to Dignitas. Ann died on February 9, 2014. Now, 78 weeks later, Bob will be reunited with his soulmate. His body will be cremated in Switzerland, and his ashes will be sent to Michael. A small group of friends will then scatter his remains where Bob scattered Ann’s ashes last year — at the couple’s favourite lake Llyn Manod, near the award-winning guesthouse they ran together from 2001-2006 in the small Welsh town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Bob reckoned those years were “the best of his life”, and joining Ann at her resting place was his final all-important wish. His voice cracking with emotion, Bob’s friend Michael added: “It may sound strange to say that he was happy, but to tell the truth this comes as a huge relief. A relief for Bob himself, and for his friends who’ve seen him racked with pain. “The doctors say that palliative care means nobody should be suffering. This is not an attack on them, but it’s just not true.
“I’ve had to see him doubled up in pain, crouching like an animal. “The end of life doesn’t have to be like that. The end of life can be so much better. Bob has proved that.”