HAPPIER TIMES: South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff and former Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie.
HAPPIER TIMES: South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff and former Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie. Rhiannon Tuffield

Kathy Duff shares heartbreak of losing partner to suicide

WARNING: This story contains topics relating to suicide.

YOU would be hard-pressed to see South Burnett Regional Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff without a smile on her face.

But just like the rest of us, even deputy mayors have their moments of despair.

Four years ago, Cr 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.

MATCHING OUTFITS: Kathy Duff with former partner Jamie Mackenzie. He would ask her what shade of pink she was wearing and he would wear a matching tie.
MATCHING OUTFITS: Kathy Duff with former partner Jamie Mackenzie. He would ask her what shade of pink she was wearing and he would wear a matching tie. Contributed

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.

"I met him before the dinner and I said I was going to get changed," Cr Duff said.

"He said, 'why do you need to get changed, you all ready look beautiful'."

PERFECT COUPLE: Kathy Duff enjoyed a long-distance relationship Jamie Mackenzie.
PERFECT COUPLE: Kathy Duff enjoyed a long-distance relationship Jamie Mackenzie. Contributed

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.

"I'd go to his functions and he would come to mine," Cr Duff said.

"He would ask me what shade of pink I was wearing and he would wear the same colour tie.

"He was the absolute perfect gentleman.

"It was a wonderful relationship."

LOVED HIS JOB: Students from Warwick East State School collect their garden awards from former councillor Jamie Mackenzie.
LOVED HIS JOB: Students from Warwick East State School collect their garden awards from former councillor Jamie Mackenzie. Paige Ashby

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.

PROUD FAMILY: Jamie with his late father and World War II veteran Bruce Mackenzie at the Killarney Remembrance Day Service.
PROUD FAMILY: Jamie with his late father and World War II veteran Bruce Mackenzie at the Killarney Remembrance Day Service. Contributed

"The dad left it (the farm) five ways, as Jamie had two other brothers and two other sisters," Cr Duff said.

"But he knew that he could never buy them out, because he didn't have enough money.

"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."

ALL SMILES:
ALL SMILES: "He was the absolute perfect gentleman.” Barclay White

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'.

"After the bankruptcy thing, I said, 'I am going to come and see you.' He said, 'no, no I am fine'.

"I asked him what he was doing, he said he was ironing.

"I think about all that stuff."

SADLY MISSED: Former Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie.
SADLY MISSED: Former Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie. File

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.

"Everyone was cut to the core.

"No one saw it coming."

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