Daughter of former Sunderland police officer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in his memory

The Layford family. From left: Matthew, Phillip, Gill, Tom and Hannah
The Layford family. From left: Matthew, Phillip, Gill, Tom and Hannah
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The daughter of a devoted dad who died suddenly just days after Christmas is scaling one of the world’s highest mountains in his memory.

Hannah Layford, 28, and her family were left devastated when retired Northumbria Police officer Tom Layford, 54, died from a cardiac arrest at his home in Broadway Grange, Mill Hill, Sunderland, on December 27 last year.

Mihai-Ionut Firescu and Hannah Layford are preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Mihai-Ionut Firescu and Hannah Layford are preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

His wife, and partner of 40 years, Gill, 55, a nursery nurse at Mill Hill Nursery School, and their youngest son Matthew, 22, tried desperately to revive the dad-of-three, but nothing could be done to save him.

Though still in shock from the tragedy, Hannah and her partner Mihai-Ionut Firescu, 28, are channelling their grief by training to climb Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in September.

Tom had served with Northumbria Police for 28 years, receiving many commendations over the years. He became a well-respected detective constable and had most recently played a vital role in the major investigations team (MITs) unit.

Prior to that, he had served with the Royal Navy from the ages of 16-21 and was only recently awarded a medal for his efforts during the Falklands War.

Retired policeman Tom Layford

Retired policeman Tom Layford

Speaking about the loss of her dad, Hannah said: “We’d had a lovely family dinner that night and me and my eldest brother, Phillip, had only left the house about 15 minutes before my dad was taken ill to drive back home to Gateshead. It was just before the snow came and dad had gone outside to put the frost cover on the car.

“He came back in and told my mum that the cold had hit the back of his throat and he felt a little unwell. He sat down and my mum went to get him some water, before he fell unconscious. My mum and brother tried to perform CPR on him before the paramedics came. He briefly regained consciousness and told my mum ‘I’ll be ok’, but when the paramedics arrived they were unable to regain a pulse.”

Though Tom was on medication for atrial fibrillation, a long-term condition which caused his heart beat to race at times, he was not thought to be at risk of a cardiac arrest.

Prior to his death, he was an active member of Houghton Golf Club and had a handicap of just eight.

Former Farringdon School pupil Hannah is hoping her climb, in which she hopes to raise thousands of pounds for the British Heart Foundation, will help fund vital research into the condition.

The social media and marketing consultant said: “Dad was a fit and strong retired policeman of just 54-years-old.

“His heart would race rarely because of his condition, but it wasn’t something that affected his life. “Though he was on medication, he was thought to be more at risk of a stroke than a cardiac arrest and that was never flagged up by his cardiologist, so his death has come as a complete shock to us all. For this to happen to someone like my dad shows there must be a gap in the research somewhere.

“We are all devastated and it’s very difficult to come to terms with, especially for my mum, who had been with my dad since they met at Farringdon School, and my younger brother, who were both with him when he died. This climb is helping to give us some focus through it all.

“We’re hoping that this fundraising will help fund research, as well as raise awareness for other people who have my dad’s condition.”

In preparation for the mammoth climb, Hannah and Mihai, a core medical trainee at University of North Tees Hospital, who is working towards becoming a cardiologist, have been building up their cardiovascular strength and climbing some of Britain’s highest peaks, including Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

According to the British Heart Foundation, each day in the UK 435 people lose their lives to cardiovascular disease and, of that figure, more than 110 of those deaths will be people under the age of 75.

•Hannah and Mihai are hoping to raise £7,000 for the African climb. You can help them by donating here