A PENSIONER has died after setting himself on fire in his back garden in front of shocked witnesses.
John “Jackie” McLeod, 82, was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff, after firefighters had been called to tackle the blaze.
Police attended the address at Moredun Park Way at 11am yesterday after concerns were raised regarding the safety of Mr McLeod. Neighbours said he had been seen earlier in an agitated state wielding an axe.
Minutes after officers arrived it is understood Mr McLeod doused himself in a flammable liquid and set fire to himself.
Mr McLeod was dead before firefighters arrived.
His wife Marion, 85, was said to be inside their home at the time. She was as last night being treated for shock and cared for by neighbours.
The horrifying incident was witnessed by a 17-year-old girl in a neighbouring garden, who was said to be “very, very shocked” by what she had seen.
Lothian and Borders Police remained at the scene until early yesterday evening.
Inspector Alan Bowie said last night: “We were called to a house in Moredun Park Way at around 11am after concern was raised regarding the safety of an 82-year-old man. Shortly thereafter the man died following a fire. There are no suspicious circumstances, the matter is still under investigation.”
It is understood Mr McLeod had long-standing medical issues which may have been related to his mental state.
Last night neighbours were struggling to come to terms with the incident, saying Mr McLeod, who is thought to be a grandfather, had always seemed a fun, “happy-go-lucky” man.
Neighbour Beatrice Cairns, 67, told the Evening News: “They were very lovable neighbours and seemed very happy-go-lucky.
“They kept themselves to themselves but would always have a chat and say hello if they met you in the street. Jackie was still very sharp for a man of his age, very bright.”
One woman, who lives in the street and did not wish to be named, said: “I honestly couldn’t think of a bad word to say about them. I’ve always thought they were a really nice couple.”
Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade said: “Fire crews were called to Moredun Park Way just before 11.30am. Tragically, the man was dead when firefighters arrived.
“A fire investigation is now under way.”
Suicide rates among elderly in decline
SUICIDES among the elderly in Scotland have fallen 23 per cent in the last decade, but campaigners today warned that the tragedy could affect anyone “regardless of age”.
Choose Life, the national campaign to reduce suicide, said that older people were at a “reduced risk” of suicide compared with the young.
Following Mr McLeod’s death, a spokeswoman for Choose Life said: “The suicide rate among those aged 80 to 89 has reduced by 23 per cent since the launch of the Choose Life strategy in 2002.
“That said, every death by suicide is a tragedy and we remain committed to doing all we can to prevent unnecessary deaths. We work with local authorities and health boards to train professionals and a broad range of local people in suicide intervention skills, so our communities are safer. We encourage anyone with suicidal thoughts to contact Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.”
Figures from 2010 showed that the rate of suicide per 100,000 in Scotland for men aged 80 to 89 was 21.1, slightly below the national average. The figure compares with 15.4 for men aged 60 to 69, and 14.3 for men aged 70 to 79.
For women aged 80 to 89, the suicide rate per 100,000 was 4.1, the lowest for any age group or gender.