My dad died alone on a train track at 2am

Because we don’t have assisted dying laws, my dad died alone on a train track at 2am

  • Sarah Crampton’s father, Mark, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Former chief inspector from Hertfordshire took his own life in 2020, aged 62 
  • Left notes explaining he’d done it because death would be quick and painless 
  • Visit to read the full version of this article 

The last time she saw her father, Sarah Crampton knew he was dying.

Once a man with a vibrant and fulfilling life, as a former chief inspector for the Hertfordshire Police, Mark had his fair share of stories he’d acquired working in such an intense role. He’d even travelled and worked in Bermuda for seven years, working for the government out there.

‘He was a very proud, masculine man,’ Sarah tells as she remembers her dad. ‘He was very wise – and unique in how he tackled things. So many people who met him said they’d never known anyone quite like him before.’

However, this strong, determined person who she loved so dearly was nowhere to be seen when Sarah last saw Mark in 2020.

Sarah Crampton with her father Mark, from Hertfordshire, who took his own life in 2020 at the age of 62 

Close bond: Sarah, pictured with her dad as a child, describes him as intelligent and a ‘force of nature’ 

Having been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a terminal lung condition, five years earlier, his decline had been rapid and steep.

Sarah describes how her father used to be a broad, tall figure at 6 ft 2, but at their last meeting, he weighed just 8st 7lbs, his clothes flapping loosely from his sallow body. His eyes had sunken into his skull. He wasn’t eating, and his teeth had turned black.

Her bold and brilliant dad, who had been described by friends as a ‘force of nature’, was fading away.

‘His quality of life was so poor,’ Sarah explains. ‘He was on so much medication for his COPD, as well as painkillers, sleeping pills and relaxants for his sciatica (severe pain of a nerve) that he could have opened a pharmacy.

Sarah describes how her father used to be a broad, tall figure at 6 ft 2, until COPD took his quality of life away 

When Sarah’s father took his own life, he left notes to say he’d thrown himself in front of a train because it was quick and painless and the family wouldn’t have to find his body 

‘Sometimes, Dad would cough until he’d pass out. He had round the clock care and his carers would come in and see him knocked out on the floor, covered in blood.’

Just days after she saw her father, Sarah got a knock on the door from two policemen. Mark’s body was found on train tracks in the small hours of the morning. He was 62 years old.

‘My dad was so intelligent,’ she says. ‘He wanted to find a way where he knew he was definitely going to die. He’d left us all notes explaining he had done this because the death would be quick and painless, and so we didn’t have to find him.’

However, knowing how her dad spent the last few hours of his life has left Sarah deeply traumatised – and determined to fight for better end of life support, as although it is available for 200 million people across the world, assisted dying in the UK is still completely illegal, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

‘Because we don’t have assisted dying laws in this country, my dad had to die alone, on a train track at 2am in the morning,’ she says. ‘I have PTSD from that.

‘I still have gruesome images in my mind. If we had the choice of assisted dying, he would have taken it, 100%. That’s what horrifies me the most – my dad died alone, needlessly, in such a barbaric way.’

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