Widow Of British TV Producer Who Took His Own Life Speaks Out: “He Was My Best Friend…John’s Life Is Now A Legacy”

Trigger warning: this article contains mention of suicide and other disturbing topics.

The widow of John Balson, who tragically took his own life after working on a Channel 4 true crime series last month, has said the TV producer’s “life is now a legacy.”

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In an emotional statement penned by Balson’s widow Yumeno Niimura, she paid tribute to a “dedicated, loyal and hardworking” husband, who was “my best friend and the love of my life it took me 32 years to find.”

“John’s life is now a legacy,” she said. “My love for him will never die and will continue with me forever. I can’t ‘move on’ from my love for John, and I never will. Love is the only thing that never dies.”

Niimura said there has been an “outpouring of love and support” from Balson’s close friends and family since he died. She paid tribute to his parents, who have “chosen to continue to love me, my daughter, and our unborn baby as an extension of their love for their son.”

Balson took his own life on May 17, a month after he stopped working on Channel 4’s In the Footsteps of Killers Season 3 citing extreme pain and dizziness, which he was eventually told by medical professionals was likely vestibular migraine disorder. Deadline revealed earlier today that Channel 4 has instructed a law firm to examine the circumstances surrounding the 40-year-old’s death. The show’s producer, Alaska TV, has said staff welfare is treated with “paramount importance.”

“A failure of the industry”

Niimura’s statement took aim at the TV industry for the way in which it treats freelancers and the mechanisms by which it engages them, and said she “hopes no one else experiences what we went through” earlier this year.

“The loss of John Balson is not just his life; it’s a failure of the industry,” she said. “The industry can find a replacement the next day, but there will never be another John Balson.”

Niimura added that Balson had told her that small production companies have “unrealistically low budgets,” and “often force extra work and unrealistic assignments on freelancers like him.”

She said her husband was “genuinely excited” when he landed the In the Footsteps of Killers producer job and “we were so proud as he was one of two people selected from over a hundred candidates.”

But things started deteriorating when he was required to commute to an office two hours away three times a week, she added. Balson later told her he had received threats from someone associated with a person he was researching and had been blamed by the production for a family declining to take part, before he stopped working all together a few weeks prior to his death. Alaska has not addressed these allegations directly, citing Channel 4’s ongoing investigation.

Niimura said Balson believed “stress” at work was one of the reasons behind the “excruciating pain” he experienced in the weeks leading up to his death.

“It’s inevitable that he took on a massive amount of pressure,” she added. “The saddest and cruellest part of life is when the person who gave you the best memories becomes a memory. My three-year-old daughter will never remember the cherished moments she had with him.”

An inquest into Balson’s death won’t take place for months and charities warn that no single factor should be attributed to the reasoning behind someone taking their own life. According to his recent medical history, which Deadline has seen, the experienced producer and journalist, whose past credits included Netflix’s When Missing Turns To Murder and CBS Reality’s Murder: First On Scene, had struggled over the past few years working long days in Japan and then often working late nights in the UK, dealing with difficult topics and contributors. He did not have a history of mental health issues, his family said.

Alaska said it gives colleagues access to “support resources.” Its statement added: “It was with great sadness that we learned of John’s passing – an extremely talented and thoughtful Director, he will be hugely missed by us all. The wellbeing of our all staff is of paramount importance, and whilst we’re unable to comment further given the investigation with Channel 4, our thoughts and love are with John’s family and friends at this very difficult time”.

A gofundme page has been set up for Balson’s family and donations can be made here.

Suicide is preventable and support can be found via the SamaritansNational Suicide Prevention Helpline and other organizations. The Film and TV Charity’s Support Line is open 24 hours a day and is available to everyone working in the industry, whether freelance or employee. It provides in-the-moment help from trained counsellors, as well as access to other mental health support. Partners and adult children of people working in the industry are also able to access help. Call 0800 054 0000 or visit www.filmtvcharity.org.uk to start a Live Chat.

In the U.S., a list of helplines can be found here and information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health can be found here.

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