Family of Beth Palmer: 'look after each other and talk'

  • Article by ITV Granada correspondent Mel Barham who met Beth and her family nine years ago whilst covering another story.

Nine years ago, I was covering the story of a fireman from Manchester airport who was attempting to break a world record for rowing across the Atlantic.

As Mike Palmer battled with the elements in the middle of the Atlantic, I went to meet his wife and daughters to deliver a surprise valentines message we’d recorded from him to his family.

That day I met a young 8-year-old Beth Palmer. She did an interview with me about her dad, how proud of him she was and how much she was missing him.

Mel Barham with Beth (left) with her sister in 2011 Credit: ITV

I meet a lot of people as part of my job. And sometimes, for whatever reason, you develop a connection that lasts. I’d stayed friends with Mike and his wife Helen. I’d watched them and their family with interest on social media, and seen their girls grow up, as they’d watched me start a family myself. We’d like each other’s posts and would occasionally comment on pictures etc.

Credit: Family photo

I couldn’t have known that 9 years after meeting that cute little 8-year-old,

the situation would be reversed in the most heartbreaking way, and it would be her father telling me of HIS pride and how much he missed her.

Three weeks ago Beth seemingly took her own life. Her family blame the coronavirus lockdown.

Beth was a popular, outgoing girl her family tell me. Funny, loving and a talented singer. I don’t have to take their word for that last bit. I’d seen it for myself over the last few months. She’d started gigging and I’d watched with interest as they’d posted snippets of her singing on social media. I’d been impressed, I’d even made a note to keep an eye on this aspiring teen, in case we should feature her on our Granada introducing series.

Her family say she had the world at her feet, and everything to live for. They saw no indication she would take her own life.

Her family are at pains to tell me that they don’t want Beth to be seen as a victim. They say she loved life and simply made a mistake that dreadful night three-weeks ago.

They believe it was a rash decision and one that will haunt them forever. Like other parents who find themselves in the same situation, they are now reliving every last moment, every recent conversation to search for signs they might have missed.

But they say they saw none, other than what they put down to ‘normal teenage behaviour. Beth had been ‘down’ about the lockdown, not being able to see her friends or finish college which she loved. Her family strongly believe if it wasn’t for the coronavirus lockdown, she would still be alive.

We hear every day of the horrors on the NHS frontline, of what is happening in our hospitals and care homes. But it is the hidden horrors of which we also need to be aware. The hundreds and thousands who are, and will be, struggling with their mental health throughout this period. Isolated, lonely, scared. And for some, unable to cope with life.

That is why Beth’s family are speaking out. They now want to help others, desperate to prevent another family going through what they are now. Their message is a simple one: look after each other and talk.