‘We’ll never get over his death’

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The parents of a man who died after became trapped under a tree he was felling have paid tribute to a “warm, kind and loving” father.

Phillip Graham was killed while cutting down a 30ft conifer in the back garden of his Newton home.

He was halfway through the job when he decided to stop work for a brief period to rest but the tree, unstable from Mr Graham’s cutting, toppled over, landing on his shoulder and trapping him underneath it.

The devoted dad-of-two was a popular figure locally who had spent most of life living in the Newton-le-Willows area.

And his distraught parents told the Reporter how he “lived for his weekends” with his two children, aged nine and 14.

In a cruel twist, the 44-year-old was due to have his children to stay on the weekend of his untimely death but the day before their planned arrival, tragedy struck.

His parents Brenda and Eric Graham told how they’d taken Mr Graham’s two children around to see their father but, unaware of the accident, were baffled to get no answer at the house.

Mrs Graham, 67, said: “He lived for his children so it was so strange when we couldn’t get an answer. I was worried but because it hadn’t been 24 hours since anyone had heard from him we didn’t go to the police straight away.

“We called the hospitals wondering whether he’d been taken in but got nothing and then the next day we called the police. They went round and went into the back garden and that’s when they found him.

“It was absolutely devastating. I don’t think we will ever get over this.

“We have been comforted, though, by how many people attended his funeral and by the fact that he didn’t suffer. It was all so sudden.”

A coroners court heard last week how the former Selwyn Jones High pupil was discovered by police officers in the back garden of his Willow Avenue home after he was reported missing.

A post mortem recorded Mr Graham’s cause of death as postural asphyxia, which occurs when a person’s body position prevents them from breathing properly.

The hearing was told Mr Graham, who was divorced, had gone into his back garden on the evening of Thursday, June 19 to cut down a large conifer. Coroner Christopher Sumner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

His parents today described Mr Graham, who was a qualified joiner, as a “loving father and son”.

Mrs Graham added: “He had so many friends, and he would do anything for anyone.

“He lived on his own but his children were really his life. He loved having them over for weekends - that is what he lived for.

“He adored having them over to stay with him.

“He would do anything for his friends. That was why he was so popular and why there were more 200 people at his funeral - that’s a measure of the esteem he was held in.”