OAP couple both die of ‘broken hearts’ as they ‘couldn’t bear to be apart’

An elderly couple who both died within weeks of each other are said to have died of a 'broken heart'.

Martyn and Val Bell, both 64, from Ilfracombe in Devon, were inseparable and never went anywhere without each other.

But tragically, Martyn died on April 13 at the Royal Britannia Hotel after he had a heart attack while sat at the bar with a friend. He had been due to have heart valve surgery the following week.

Val, who was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer earlier this year, died a month later at their home on Sunday (May 12).

The 64-year-old was given six months to live after her diagnosis, but she only lasted four months.

More than 350 people from the community gathered to bid the couple farewell at a funeral on Thursday, May 16.

Those who were close to the couple say they believe the pair both died of a broken heart .

Vikki Old, a close friend, said: "Their deaths have shocked everyone.

"He had not been coping with Val's illness. When she was first given her diagnosis he cried his eyes out every day. I think he died mentally and physically of a broken heart.

"They had been inseparable and never went anywhere without each other.

"Val was pretty ill when he died and then it was like she had given up. She had always been very loud and crazy, and was a very organised person.

"Martyn was like a brother to me. He was well-known in the local pubs and harbour, as was out and about all the time.

"He was such a lovely man who would do anything for anyone. He did not have a bad bone in his body and I have never known him to get in a mood.

"When he moved here as a teenager with his parents they bought a boat and he has had one in the harbour ever since."

Following their deaths, flags in the harbour have been flying at half mast.

Martyn and Val were both members of Ilfracombe Yacht Club and met around 35 years ago when Val was out walking her dog Blue and he had run off.

Meanwhile, Martyn was at the harbour when Blue began pestering him. He followed the dog back to his owner and that's when their love story began.

The couple never had children but Val was very close to her goddaughter Nikki Clarke. It was Nikki who cared for her and helped her achieve her wish of dying at home.

Martyn owned an engineering business in the town called Brimar Engineering and had started to hand it over to someone else at the time of his death.

Val, born in Devon, worked at Barnstaple Bus Station in the ticket office and later relocated to Ilfracombe Bus Station ticket office. After she retired, she worked with Martyn.

Val's brother, Peter Challacombe, 69, of East Down, said: "It was very hard for Martyn to accept that Val was going to go.

"I think he would have been broken hearted anyway so it is fitting they both went together.

What is broken-heart syndrome?

– A temporary heart condition, known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is brought about by severely stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one

– People with this syndrome can experience a sudden chest pain which can feel like a heart attack

– Symptoms include shortness of breath and pain in the chest

– The symptoms are treatable and can usually reverse itself in one to four weeks

– Doctors may prescribe medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics to reduce the workload on the heart

"I think she gave up after Martyn's death. I don't think she wanted to accept it really and at one point said to me, 'Where is Martyn?

"Why is he not laying beside me?'.

"She just slowly drifted away to catch him up.

"Last Sunday she gave her last breath at about 3pm and now she is happy sailing off elsewhere.

"When she was 15 she was involved in a serious accident where she was knocked down by a car and was run over twice.

"She was in a coma for 13 weeks and after that she lived life to the full such as living in America and when her first husband died she came back to Devon.

"She has always been a great sister to me and I don't know who I'm going to speak Italian to now.

"We are half Italian so we used to speak the language quite often together."

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