Belfast Telegraph

Widow of tragic cyclist David Helliwell urges men to check health

By Mark Bain

The widow of a Co Armagh cyclist found dead close to his home is calling on men to have their health checked, after it was revealed her husband died of an undiagnosed heart complaint.

The body of David Helliwell (55) was discovered at Drumnamether Road near Tandragee on May 31.

At the time police and Mrs Helliwell appealed for information, fearing he might have been involved in an accident.

But post-mortem results have revealed Mr Helliwell had a heart complaint which could have been detected by a simple blood test.

And that has prompted Wendy, who would have been celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with David next month, to urge men to have regular health checks and stop other families going through the same pain.

"David was a typical 55-year-old man, spreading at the waistline, losing his hair, slowing down a little, but he would regularly cycle 20 to 30 miles at a time," she told the Ulster Gazette.

"There were no symptoms that he was unwell.

"He had been a little tired in recent weeks, but it had been hot weather and we just put it down to that and the normal tiredness you get from working. He wasn't breathless, or anything like that."

Mrs Helliwell said she and her family had been enjoying a normal evening on the night of David's death.

David had not long left their home on Markethill Road when she heard sirens in the distance, but didn't think any more of it.

"We were out in the garden and we watched what direction they were going in, as you do. We weren't worried," she told the Gazette.

"We just got on with what we were doing.

"But when I got out of the shower later that evening there were two police officers at the door to tell me David had died. I have a 20-year-old son, an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter and they are devastated. It breaks my heart.

"And that's why I would say all men should attend a Well Man clinic. Don't be proud, just go.

"My husband rarely went to the doctor. I think the last time he went was five years ago."

Mr Helliwell had always been a keen cyclist and cycled to work every day - a round trip of 13 miles.

He was a volunteer with Cycle Recycle in Newry, which encourages people to take up the activity by making it affordable, and Mrs Helliwell will be donating her husband's cycling gear to the organisation.

He was originally from Derby, but had lived with his family in Tandragee for the past 21 years, and Mrs Helliwell said that she has taken comfort in the support which has been provided by the local community.

"I couldn't ask for better friends and neighbours. I have a stack of cards, some from people we met 10 or 20 years ago and remembered us.

"People have also been very generous with donations in lieu of flowers and I have two nice amounts to go to Cycle Recycle and the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association."

Mrs Helliwell wrote and delivered the eulogy to her late husband at his funeral last week and described him as "a country man who loved the outdoors and fishing.

"When the children were growing up we would all go camping and cook sausages on the riverbank and he would often encourage me not to be so grown up all the time," she said.

Mr Helliwell is survived by his wife, children Michael, Tom and Katie, mother Brenda and stepfather Ray.

Belfast Telegraph

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