Peter and Linda Wilkins had been happily married for 47 years until they were cruelly separated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter, 69, is the widow who left Andy Burnham speechless on live radio after explaining how he'd been unable to visit his wife for three months as she lay confused and ill in a care home.

Linda had died unexpectedly 24 hours earlier, aged 69, on Wednesday, October 21.

Both born blind, so-called window visits at the care home were no good for Peter and Linda, leaving them only with phone calls for communication.

Despite his own shock bereavement, Peter doesn't want anyone else to go through the same heartbreaking circumstances.

The reason he contacted Radio Manchester was to raise awareness of people separated from their loved-ones in care homes.

Visits are currently banned under current coronavirus restrictions.

Peter, from Stockport, believes that partners or close relatives should be allowed to visit once or twice a week with the right precautions.

Peter Wilkin holds a photograph of his wife Linda, who he was unable to visit before she died in a care home

Though he believes Linda received excellent care while in Fernlea in Hazle Grove, he felt unable to properly support his wife in the final months of her life.

An exception was made for their 47th wedding anniversary on August 25. It was the last time they saw each other.

“I never said goodbye to her really," Peter says.

"Linda was lying in her bed and I was sitting further away in a chair.

“She asked me to give her a kiss and I said that I couldn’t because of the virus.

“That would have been the last time I was able to and I couldn’t put it right.

"That's the worst thing. I can’t go back and put it right.”

Peter Wilkin outside his home in Stockport

Both born without sight, Peter and Linda met at Henshaws School for the Blind in Manchester and eventually settled down together in Stockport. They both loved music and would spend hours listening to the radio.

“We had a perfectly normal marriage like any other couple would," he said.

“We had our own separate interests but we spent a lot of time together and appreciated each other.

“If we’d listened to something on the radio we always commented on it, and if one of us missed something we’d record it so the other could listen.”

Peter had always been more confident and as Linda developed long-term health problems, he would often act as her advocate.

Linda had a spinal condition and facial disfigurement which they believe had been caused by anti-morning sickness drugs prescribed to her mother during pregnancy.

Three years ago Linda developed rheumatoid arthritis which made it difficult for her to stand and move around in their home.

In March she became unable walk at all and in July was admitted to Stockport’s Stepping Hill hospital just as the Covid crisis hit the NHS.

Peter was unable to visit her in hospital and felt unable to properly support his wife.

She was eventually discharged to Fernlea nursing home where again visiting was not allowed due to coronavirus.

Peter Wilkin holds a photograph of his wife Linda: 'I just didn't expect her to die when she did'

"It really was a very difficult situation and I don't want anyone else to go through it," says Peter.

"Linda needed me there to monitor what was happening. You just don’t get the full facts over the phone.

"I would have gone everyday under normal circumstances. I would have known if she was having problems and when I was leaving I would have gone to talk with the staff. I always used to do that before.

“I was her advocate throughout our life because I was more confident than she was.

“It was very difficult because I wanted to be there to support her and solve any problems.

“It’s no criticism of the care home staff. Fernlea is an excellent nursing home.

“I don’t think she understood what was happening and in the last two months she went significantly downhill."

They were offered window visits and video calls but with neither having any sight these were redundant options.

'It really was a very difficult situation and I don't want anyone else to go through it'

"We had occasional chats on the phone but Linda was becoming cognitively disabled which meant she couldn’t cope with certain things.

"She struggled with holding the phone and would cut herself off when it touched her face.

"When I would call her back she didn’t know how to answer it."

Although Linda was incapacitated by her health problems, her death was unexpected.

Peter said: "I'd realised that she may never be able to come home, that she was too disabled to come home.

"But I expected her to live for a couple of years in that nursing. I was happy that she was in a caring place and when I spoke to her on the phone on Saturday we had a good conversation.

"I just didn't expect her to die when she did."

Peter is still waiting for contact from the coroner regarding the cause of Linda's death.

In the meantime he intends to campaign for visiting rights in care homes.

He said: "I do feel satisfied that I did my best and Linda would have wanted me to have done that.

"I have always been on for getting things done.

"I have always known what my consumer rights are and Linda was always proud when I came home with the right result. She always had so much confidence in me.

"If I set out to do something I got it done.

"I would like a system to be set up where the partners or the nearest relative of a patient are given one or two visits per week with the necessary precautions in place, rather than the blanket refusal we currently have.

"It would give people their comfort and allow them to continue closeness with their relative.

"It would also be a way to monitor any problems that might arise."