Barbara Stonehouse dead and obituary, My MP father stole a dead man’s name

On the evening of November 13, 1974, my parents, John and Barbara Stonehouse, celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary at their favourite London restaurant.

That night, the handsome, generous, talented father seemed to be in good spirits, and the mother was relieved. Just a few days ago, he called her from the US and told her something that worried her.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he told her.

At the time, she thought he meant he couldn’t take the pressure of endlessly traveling the world trying to seal business deals. Only later did she discover that “it” meant his whole life. That night, my mother sat at the table across from him, not knowing that this would be the last anniversary dinner they had together. Six days later, on November 19, my father flew to Miami. He travels with Jim Charlton, vice president of his trading and export company Global Imex.

My mother hoped that Jim’s presence would help her husband maintain his emotional balance. She was wrong. The next night, Labour MP and secret adviser John Stonehouse walked from his hotel to the beach in Miami, leaving his clothes to the beach shack attendant and nearly vanishing from the face of the earth. My then-49-year-old dad is known to have been under tremendous emotional stress in the years leading up to his dramatic disappearance.

His troubles began in 1969, when he was accused of being a spy by a defector from Czech intelligence because of his constituency and ministerial ties to the country. Although never proven, the allegations cast a cloud of suspicion on him. They also cost him a political career a year later.

When Labour lost the 1970 general election, he did not get a shadow cabinet position or a seat in Harold Wilson’s government during the hanging of Parliament in 1974. John Stonehouse was caught in a political cold war. Financial concerns have also grown. A staunch supporter of developing countries, he helped set up the Bangladesh Fund in 1971 – a way for Bangladeshi citizens living in the UK to support their government in exile. In January 1972, over £400,000 was presented to the President of Bangladesh. But soon after, the fund was rumored to have topped £1m at one point and lost around £600,000.

Suspicious fingers pointed at my father. Again, the rumors are completely unfounded. But they would insult his integrity for the rest of his life. Closer to home, my father sailed against the wind with his export business. At the time of his disappearance, he was owed at least £75,000 (£800,000 today). He didn’t tell my mom how worried he was about money. He also hid from her for five years that he was having an affair with his secretary Sheila Buckley, who is 28 years younger than him.

His life got out of control, and to deal with it, he took prescription drugs. My father’s bathroom cabinet was filled with bottles of Mandrax, a drug commonly prescribed for insomnia and anxiety at the time but now banned for over 30 years due to its negative mental health effects. Side effects include depression, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, poor decision-making and an increased risk of suicide. Ingested with alcohol, it can be fatal. He is also a regular on Mogadon, a benzodiazepine with well-recognized side effects including depression, impaired judgment, delusions and schizophrenia.

For two years before his disappearance, he self-medicated with a mixture of the two, with little or no supervision. No one knew he was addicted to these drugs. In those days, doctors carried little green prescriptions, and if my dad saw a MP who was also a family doctor walking down the halls of the House of Commons, he would get the prescription from them and his own doctor.