'No one saw it coming': Mackenzie remembered
FOUR years ago, South Burnett Regional Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff's life was turned upside down when her partner was found dead on his Killarney property.
Her partner of three years and former Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie tragically took his own life.
She has never shared her thoughts, feelings and anguish from that tumultuous time. Until now.
Cr Kathy Duff met Jamie Mackenzie in 2012, when they both attended a local government dinner.
During that initial dinner, Mr Mackenzie swept Cr Duff off her feet and she was immediately smitten.
"We danced all night,” she said.
The pair shared a strong connection, which they maintained through a long-distance relationship.
As well as his role with Southern Downs Regional Council, Cr Mackenzie also saw to all the responsibilities of his family farm in Killarney.
Twelve months before the councillor's death, his father died, leaving Cr Mackenzie to not only manage the farm, but sort through the ensuing issue of his father's will.
"The dad left it (the farm) five ways, as Jamie had two other brothers and two other sisters,” Cr Duff said.
"He didn't want to ever talk about it. He used to say 'it will all end in a big ugly mess'.”
On top of this, problems in his council role were beginning to take a toll.
To a lesser man, the emotions that may arise from this combination of life challenges would have been openly visible to those around them.
But Cr Duff remembers her former partner held it all together.
"To me, he appeared like everything was fine,” she said.
"He was across everything.
"He was happy and he seemed all good.”
Then came the claims that the councillor was being stood down for bankruptcy.
"I rang him and told him 'it doesn't matter we can get through this',” Cr Duff said.
"He said 'yeah, I'm fine. It's OK'.”
While sources linked the bankruptcy claims to Cr Mackenzie's suicide, Cr Duff is adamant it was in no way related.
"Everybody thinks that's why he committed suicide, but it just wasn't true,” she said.
She claims he was planning to end his life before the rumours of the bankruptcy had come out.
"Now we look back, he actually changed his will on that Friday,” she said.
"The news of the bankruptcy came out on the Monday night and he committed suicide on the Tuesday.
"He was planning it before the bankruptcy thing came out.”
Looking back, Cr Duff recalls situations that she now realises indicated there were cracks in her former partner's brave exterior.
"We were putting chemical on cattle. I said 'you should be wearing gloves' and he said 'oh no, it doesn't matter',” she said.
"You think about that now, it was very haphazard.”
Interestingly, it was a conversation about ironing that really started to ring alarm bells.
"I said to him, 'I hate to waste my life ironing. I only iron what I need',” she said.
"He said, 'when I die, I want everything to be in order'.
Sharing her emotional tale four years after it occurred, Cr Duff encouraged other people who were going through tough times to reach out to someone.
"I was with him the day before he committed suicide, and yet I would never in a million years have picked that he was going to do that,” she said.
"No one saw it coming.”
If you're struggling, you can phone Lifeline on 131114.