A devoted couple who were married for 55 years died within 21 hours of one another after the husband told his wife: ‘Close your eyes, I’m coming with you’.

George Pitman’s family believe he died of a broken heart last Thursday after spending a week at his wife Pat’s bedside, where she had been admitted to hospital with a shadow on her lung.

George, 77, from Middlesbrough, was seriously ill himself but refused to leave his beloved wife and as it became clear she was slipping away he held her hand and whispered those touching final words on Wednesday, November 19.

The great-grandfather – a retired HGV driver known as ‘Rocky’ suffered a heart aneurysm just 21 hours later.

Their daughter Jacqueline Gofton, one of their five children, and family are preparing for a heartbreaking joint funeral.

"They spent their whole lives inseparable, so this is what they would have wanted,” she said.

"If they had been given a choice, this is the one they would have chosen. Dad died of a broken heart.

"It is just unbelievable how this has happened. It's as if they knew, though.

"When we came back to their house the next day, Dad had put a box on the bed with all of the birth certificates in and all of the legal documents.”

The couple had a large circle of friends and spent three nights a week at the local bowls club playing bingo.

They met on a blind date and married on Valentine’s Day in 1959.

Their daughter Angela Gould added: "They really were inseparable, they were never apart. It seems fitting that they even died together."

Pat and George will take their final journey in the same hearse at their funeral on Friday.

Photo credit: SWNS