THE owner of Molly's Den emporium took his own life as the business struggled to survive and the family home was at risk.

John East-Rigby, 65, shot himself in the head at his country home at Mockbeggar on the edge of the New Forest.

By killing himself he would ensure his widow Cherry would not lose out financially because of his life insurance and equity in their £2 million home, an inquest heard.

They had taken over Molly's Den in 2017 which then had branches in Winchester, Christchurch, Bournemouth, New Milton and Salisbury. Three remained at his death, in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Winchester.

The stores were a base for traders selling a variety of things including retro furniture, vintage clothing, records, antiques, jewellery, gifts and collectables.

but the emporia were not as profitable as the East-Rigbys had been led to believe and for much of the time was losing money.

Mr East-Rigby had placed hopes in a rate rebate but shortly before he died on May 8 he heard that the appeal which would have returned £60-80,000 had failed.

At the time of death his liabilities, much of it secured on his home, had reached £1.5 million.

On the day of his death he made his wife a cup of tea and took her hand and, she told the inquest yesterday, said: "Don't worry, everything is going to be alright. I said 'what do you mean?' He said 'it's OK'. He turned and walked away and that was the last I saw of him."

Soon afterwards she found a note that told her to call the police. They were called and found him in a horse box parked in the paddock. He had a severe wound to his head and a shotgun by his side.

In a statement, Dr Simon Low, GP at Cornerways Medical Centre in Poulner, said Mr East-Rigby was an infrequent patient with no serious mental issues.

One of Mr East-Rigby's accountants, Laurence Berko, in a statement, said after buying Molly's Den the business struggled with cash flow difficulties.

After his death Cherry took it over but it collapsed in July.

Mr Berko said: "John was a lovely man, very caring, a good man. By taking his own life he knew Cherry would be OK."

Acting area coroner Sam Marsh said the notes were of "despair" and returned a verdict of suicide.

She said: “Outwardly John appeared to have a very enviable lifestyle, a lovely home and a happy marriage, a privileged and luxurious lifestyle. But John did appear to be struggling underneath. The only way John could see to get out of this and keep Cherry in as much comfort as possible was to sadly take his own life.”

In a statement after the inquest in Winchester Cherry said: "Johnny was my husband, my business partner and my best friend. His loss is unbearable and it has turned my world upside down.

"Johnny was fully committed to Molly's Den and put all his personal financial resources into the business which kept traders going for 18 months.

"He was aware of how hard the staff worked an all the efforts they put in. We took over Molly's Den on 16 October 2017 and I feel that Johnny hasn't been given recognition for what he achieved in such a short time. His hard work kept 200 people in jobs for far longer than if he hadn't taken over the company."

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