Life partner of late Wakefield singer Dan Durrant pays tribute to 'awesome dad'

Father of three Dan Durrant became a victim of the pandemic when he took his own life during lockdown. Now his partner wants to tell his story. Grace Hammond reports.

By Grace Hammond
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 4:45 pm
Jax Egan, of  Normanton, near Wakefield. Picture: James Hardisty.
Jax Egan, of Normanton, near Wakefield. Picture: James Hardisty.

DAY to day Dan Durrant was a quiet, gentle man, a dedicated support worker, a loving dad and family man. On stage, he was the ultimate rock star.

But on Friday, March 27, last year, just four days after the country went into lockdown, overwhelmed by fears around Covid 19, the 44-year-old father of three from Normanton near Wakefield took his own life.

Some 18 months on, his life partner of 20 years, Jax Egan is sharing Dan’s story in the hope that it will encourage others to talk about how they are feeling and in doing so, prevent further loss of life.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Dan Durrant.

Dan Durrant loved life. He was dad to Ella, now aged 12 and twin boys Zach and Leo, now seven. Their main carer while Jax worked evenings and weekends, he loved spending time with them outdoors, in the woods and on the beach, and supporting all their after-school activities.

He had worked as a support worker for some 20 years, most recently for Sustain Wakefield, helping those at risk of homelessness to keep their homes and live healthy independent lives.

But it was on stage that Dan truly transformed as the lead singer for Conquest of Steel and Rock Warriors.

Formed in the 1990s while Dan and the other founding members were at university, Conquest of Steel was a traditional ’80s heavy metal rock band which went on to record seven albums of original music.

They toured Europe, disbanding after 18 years following their biggest gig at Bloodstock, the UK’s biggest metal and rock music festival, in 2014.

Two years later, Dan was asked to join and front rock cover band Rock Warriors. He was gigging and recording with them up to seven days before he died.

After his death both bands reformed, for a memorial gig at a packed Granary Wharf in Leeds to pay tribute to Dan. Rock Warriors were joined on stage by his daughter Ella to perform Don’t Stop Believing, the song she’d started singing on stage with her dad.

The event raised nearly £500 which has been donated to Sustain to fund a wellbeing day at Eden Forest next Spring which was a favourite place of Dan’s.

“Dan liked helping people and making a difference to their lives,” says Jax. “He wanted people to be the best they could be and had a really good way of bringing out the best in people.

“He never tried to shelter the children from his world or that some people had a harder time and were less fortunate than others.

“He’d explain that everyone had a story to tell and that every day at work was different.”

When the UK went into lockdown on March 23 2020, Dan was keen to keep seeing clients in person, concerned that for many his would be the only face they would see.

With Jax a keyworker, the children also continued attending school.

But bombarded on all fronts by alarming pictures, statistics and updates on the worsening Coronavirus crisis, Jax says Dan became increasingly worried about whether they were doing enough as a family to protect themselves.

Jax says he was concerned about getting Covid himself and leaving the children without a dad. He discussed this with her and she reassured him that he was fit and healthy but his worrying led to him losing sleep.

Overwhelmed by his fears around Covid, combined with sleep deprivation, Dan suffered an acute psychotic episode.

He left his house in Normanton one Friday morning, going for a walk to clear his head and, unbeknown to Jax in desperation he called his GP. She only learnt of this after his death.

She talked him to a place of safety at the surgery where he spoke on the phone to the mental health team who took him through some calming exercises for a panic attack and told him he was okay to leave.

He returned home but before long he had disappeared again.

Jax was concerned that no outside shoes or clothes were missing, and so began phoning round friends and colleagues.

Calls to Dan’s mobile went straight to his voicemail, but one friend who had spoken to him earlier in the day, advised calling the police saying Dan had been having thoughts about hurting himself.

“He’d only been gone an hour, I didn’t think the police would take it seriously and while the friend reported it, I began driving round his running routes and I came across the police.

“They were on it within 30 minutes of getting the call. That’s when I realised it was serious,” recalls Jax.

The police continued their search and it as only after calling out the police helicopter, that Dan was found later that evening.

“Dan had gone out in pyjamas and slippers taking only his mobile

phone. I don’t believe he had intended going for a walk or not coming back but went outside to phone the mental health crisis team and walked while he talked and then carried on walking,” says Jax.

With no previous history of depression, anxiety or mental health issues, Dan’s actions came totally out of the blue, leaving family, friends and colleagues in devastated shock.

“People keep saying ‘how could we have missed it’, but really there was nothing to miss,” says Jax.

“In just eight hours, everything had got on top of him. He told the GP and his friend that he was worried about catching Covid and leaving the kids without a dad or the kids catching it and dying.

“He wanted to protect his children and ironically, thought this was the best action at the time.

“However, for the children he’s left behind, him not being part of their lives is not the best for them. Eighteen months down the line and all they want is their dad. As the parent left, I cannot make it right; I cannot say it’s going to be okay or fix this.”

Dan was one of nearly 5,000 people in the UK who took their own lives last year, although that was down on the previous year.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suicide is still far more prevalent among men, with the suicide rate among men at 15.3 per 100,000 compared to women at 4.9 per 100,000.

And the suicide rate is still far higher among men aged between 45 and 49 at 23.8 per 100,000.

And Jax wants to urge anyone who may be struggling with their mental health to get help.

“It’s so important that those feeling overwhelmed in this way and having harmful thoughts, talk about how they are feeling,” she says.

“That one conversation could help you get through the here and now. One more day could make all the difference to yourself and your family and help you get passed this barrier in your mind. Dan was an awesome dad; the best dad any child could have. He was their life.”

Where to turn for help

Wakefield Safe Space 07776 962815

andysmanclub.co.uk

www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans: 116 123

CALM: 0800 585858 and hwww.thecalmzone.net

Turning Point: 01924 234860