Heartbroken cancer surgeon ‘drank to numb pain’ of wife's death

A cancer surgeon whose wife died of the disease he specialises in was found drunk and slumped at the wheel of his car - on what would have been their 10th wedding anniversary.

Gemma Harrison
Gemma Harrison

Mother-of-three Gemma Harrison died in 2012 after suffering from a rare form of cancer which had spread to her liver and lung.

Husband Nicholas Harrison, from Coven, was found with a half empty bottle of vodka and parked on double yellow lines on their 10th wedding anniversary, court heard.

He had 'drank to numb the pain', magistrates were told.

Cancer surgeon Nicholas Harrison was found slumped in his car on what would have been his 10th wedding anniversary
Cancer surgeon Nicholas Harrison was found slumped in his car on what would have been his 10th wedding anniversary

Police gave the 43-year-old, who works at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, a breath test and discovered he was more than three times the drink drive limit.

He had been found parked and with the engine running in the village of Oakamoor, north Staffordshire.

Magistrates at North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard he was heartbroken after the death of his wife.

Harrison was banned from driving for 12 months for being over the limit.

He was also fined £1,330.

His lawyer Paul Kay told magistrates: "This is an exceptional case with a tragic background.

"He had drunk to numb the pain of a tragic day."

At an earlier hearing, Mr Kay told the court: "It would be a devastating blow to anybody, but he was a specialist in the very cancer she was suffering from."

The court also heard Harrison, a graduate of the University of Birmingham, was well-liked at the hospital where he works.

Gemma's death shocked the Coven community and friends and family have rallied round in the past two years with a series of fundraising events.

COVEN 1 SL 13
A fun day held in memory of Gemma Harrison

Before her death Gemma, who was mother to Jack, aged six, Joe, five, and 18-month-old Noah, began to organise a fundraising disco to raise money for the Royal Free Hospital in London where she was being treated.

In February last year, hundreds of people raised £8,600 to help fund research into the disease which killed Gemma, who was 34 when she died.

A fun run was then held in Coven in October last year, with Compton Hospice and Katharine House in Stafford also benefitting from funds.

Steve Bull and Don Goodman started the race and during the afternoon 1,500 green balloons were released into the sky in memory of Gemma.

Events have continued regularly, with the group having a market stall in Penkridge earlier this month selling homemade cakes.

A Facebook page called Remember Gemma Always keeps people updated with any fundraising activities.