'Bubbly' businesswoman killed herself with poison she bought online

Businesswoman whose ex-footballer boyfriend was abused by disgraced coach Barry Bennell killed herself with poison she bought online, inquest hears

  • ‘Bubbly’ Kelly Walsh, 45, died after taking the poison at her home in Atherton 
  • She was one of six people in the area to die from the drug, a coroner warned 

A ‘bubbly’ and ‘determined’ businesswoman ‘whose smile lit up the room’ took her own life by ingesting a poisonous substance she had bought online, an inquest heard.

Kelly Walsh, 45, died after taking the substance at her home in Atherton, Greater Manchester, on February 27,  2021, Bolton Coroner’s Court heard.

The court heard Ms Walsh – who believed she could ‘communicate with the spirit world’ – was the girlfriend of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, the first victim to waive his anonymity to publicly accuse coach Barry Bennell of child sexual abuse.

A senior coroner has now vowed to write to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman following a spate of deaths in Greater Manchester linked to the same controlled poison.

The hearing was the final in a cluster of six to be presided over by senior coroner for Greater Manchester West Timothy Brennand; the others involving the deaths of Chantelle Williams, Matthew O’Reilly, Samuel Dickenson, Mathew Price, and Shaun Bass.

Kelly Walsh, 45, died after taking the substance at her home in Atherton, Greater Manchester, on February 27, 2021. Ms Walsh is pictured above

On each occasion, Mr Brennand concluded that the cause of death was ‘toxicity’ relating to the same controlled poison.

Ms Walsh had purchased the substance after seeking out advice on an online forum. The website, which is not being identified, describes itself as a ‘safe space’ in its ‘information section’.

CLICK HERE: ‘Shut down these sick suicide sites’: Victims’ families call for end of ‘death cult’ online forums where members encourage others to take their own life


But Detective Inspector Andrew Wright, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), told the hearing numerous forum posts contain advice and instructions on how people can acquire the controlled poison to take their own lives.

DI Wright confirmed GMP carried out a joint investigation with Surrey Police and Sussex Police after tracing the purchase of the poison, in each case except Ms Walsh’s, to a premises on the ‘south coast’.

The business, which was not named, had provided the substance to more than 200 people across Europe and was linked to 57 confirmed deaths, DI Wright said.

He added as a result of the investigation, police also prevented a further 80 people who had bought the poison from taking it. 

No criminal charges were brought against the business, as the owners believed that they were selling it to people for legitimate reasons, DI Wright said. It has since stopped selling the chemical.

DI Wright said: ‘They were both extremely upset. They both came across as decent people who had no idea of other uses of [the substance].’

DI Wright told the hearing he was made aware of a concern for the welfare of Ms Walsh shortly before 7pm on the evening of her death. 

One of the people to raise concerns was Mr Woodward, who played for several clubs including Crewe Alexandra, Bury and Sheffield United.

Businesswoman Ms Walsh (above) was described as ‘bubbly’ whose ‘smile lit up the room’ by her heartbroken mother 

Mr Woodward told the hearing Ms Walsh had been staying with him in Halifax, West Yorkshire, after the pair got into a relationship in early December 2020.

The footballer, who also served in Lancashire Police upon his early retirement from football, told the court that Ms Walsh believed she was pregnant, despite ‘a couple’ of negative tests. He also said that ‘she had spiritual belief that she had this gift’ of communicating with the spirit world – something that he believed.

CLICK HERE: Footballer Andy Woodward’s harrowing story of being abused as a boy by paedophile coach Barry Bennell


Mr Woodward said: ‘She was telling me things she’d have never known about my dad and childhood. It literally blew my mind away and I thought: “How would Kelly know these things about my father?”.’

However, Mr Woodward conceded that ‘with the benefit of hindsight’, this could have been a case of Ms Walsh’s mental health issues manifesting themselves as hallucinations.

He said on the morning of her death, she left his flat and told him she was heading back to Greater Manchester to meet her mother and planned to return in the afternoon, so that they could have a takeaway.

DI Wright said CCTV footage from Ms Walsh’s apartment in Atherton showed she arrived at around 11.20am. Mr Woodward told the inquest he ‘started to fret and wonder where she was’ at 6.30pm, so got in touch with her mother, Christine Walsh, who in turn called police.

When emergency services attended at Ms Walsh’s home they found her dead on her bed. There was also evidence she had ingested the controlled poison, DI Wright confirmed.

He added that on Ms Walsh’s phone, there was a text message, which stated a DPD delivery had been completed, which DI Wright later confirmed had contained the poison. 

Pathologist Dr David Barker carried out a post-mortem examination on Ms Walsh’s body and recorded ‘[poison] toxicity’ as the sole cause of death.

Mr Brennand asked forensic toxicologist Julie Evans whether the toxin could be used to provide a ‘high’ or whether the sole reason for ingesting it would be to take one’s life.

Ms Evans replied: ‘It is not something that would be taken for a euphoria type effect.’ 

Andy Woodward, was Ms Walsh’s former partner. The ex-footballer – who was the first victim to waive his anonymity to publicly accuse disgraced coach Barry Bennell – broke down in tears after giving his evidence during the inquest hearing 

Ms Walsh was described by her mother as ‘bubbly’, ‘personable’, ‘intelligent’, and ‘determined’. ‘She had a smile that lit up the room,’ said Ms Walsh Snr.

In her statement, she said her daughter had a ‘very successful’ sales career in her 20s, before setting up her own company, Positivity Princess Media, but that ‘sadly her mental health issues often held her back from reaching her full potential’.

Ms Walsh Snr told the court she had always had a good relationship with her daughter, but in October 2020 she started receiving ‘aggressive’ messages, including accusations she had murdered her partner – Ms Walsh’s father – who took his own life a few years earlier.

Ms Walsh also raised concerns she felt Mr Woodward had been a ‘controlling’ partner. Mr Brennand said he ‘accepted this is the family’s honestly held view’ but said exploring such concerns about the relationship was not in the ‘scope of the inquest’.

Mr Brennand added: ‘The most that I’m prepared to determine is that after listening to the evidence of Mr Woodward, I am nevertheless satisfied that that relationship was, upon any view, dysfunctional.’

When questioned by the Walsh family barrister, Aqsa Hussain, about why he did not attend Ms Walsh’s funeral, Mr Woodward said it was because he had been sectioned in the aftermath of a documentary that aired in March 2021, regarding the sexual abuse he was subjected to at the hands of Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra youth coach and Manchester City scout.

After finishing his evidence, Mr Woodward broke down in tears and said: ‘I want some peace in life, that’s all.’

Medical evidence heard in court stated that Ms Walsh had made multiple previous suicide attempts, including an attempted overdose of paracetamol in 2009. She also had a number of inpatient stays at hospital.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr Brennand said: ‘From approximately October 2020, she was to enter a phase of deteriorating mental ill health. Her presenting symptomologies were to include phases of episodic psychotic lapses, delusional thoughts and actions.

‘Her mental health condition had been treated with phases of hospital inpatient admission and community based treatment… I am entirely satisfied that the act that brought about her death was a deliberate one.’

The coroner said he did not believe the poison had been part of a ‘suicide kit’, as seen in the other linked inquests, due to a lack of an antiemetic – usually included in the kits to ensure that the poison does not make the person throw up.

Mr Brennand added: ‘I am nevertheless satisfied she possessed the intelligence and insight to research [the poison] as a means to bring her life to an end. I don’t consider this to have been a cry for help as the other self-harming episodes may well have been categorised.’

Mr Brennand confirmed he will write a Prevention of Future Deaths report, addressed to the Home Secretary, asking for a ‘root and branch review’ on the public availability and regulation of the poisonous substance. 

He also commended DI Wright for his investigation.

For those in need of support, contact the Samaritans on  116 123 or email [email protected]. For more information, go to the Samaritans’ website by clicking here

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