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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Cumbrian man facing child sex charges killed himself - inquest

The family of a globally-renowned organist who killed himself after being charged with child sex offences are considering making a formal complaint about how the Metropolitan Police handled his case.

David Sanger photo
David Sanger

An inquest heard that David John Sanger, 63, killed himself last May after appearing in court.

He had been charged with four counts of indecent assault and four counts of gross indecency with one boy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But, in a statement after the hearing, Mr Sanger’s brother, Peter, said they were confident he was innocent and revealed the family is considering making a complaint against the Metropolitan Police.

That force had been investigating the allegations because they related to a time when the organist lived in London.

Peter Sanger added: “He joined the growing ranks of teachers and other professional people whose lives have been ruined by false accusations.”

He also said they were considering complaining about the way the press report cases such as his brother’s.

North and west Cumbria coroner David Roberts was told Mr Sanger, appointed president of the Royal College of Organists in 2008, had been arrested when officers raided his home, The Old Wesleyan Chapel at Embleton.

Family and friends said that after his magistrates court appearance on May 25, Mr Sanger, who moved to Cumbria in 1989, was determined to clear his name and gave no indication that he would harm himself.

The former choir master was released on bail pending committal proceedings and stepped down from his presidency to focus on the court case.

His outlook changed, however, when he visited a petrol station two days later and saw a newspaper article about his court appearance, the inquest heard.

Peter Sanger said: “That was the turning point. I think it brought home to him the huge fight he’d have and the weight of public opinion that would be stirred up. How could he continue with his career with this hanging over him?”

The next day three concerned neighbours – off-duty police officer Adrian Furniss, James Gray and Patti Jones – went to his converted former chapel, with housed a church organ, and found him dead. A pathologist said he died of asphyxia caused by a plastic bag and ligature.

A handwritten note left by the stairs near the door urged visitors not to go beyond that point but to call police.

It ended: “Sorry, can’t face any more.”

The neighbours used the front door of the house - because the back door they normally used had been broken down in the police raid - and Mr Furniss found Mr Sanger’s body before the note was discovered.

A notebook containing 18 individually-addressed letters and a separate generic note were found on the kitchen table.

Mr Gray said he had seen Mr Sanger the previous evening and the musician gave no indication that he was considering harming himself.

He said: “The only thing he said was it was sad he had to cancel all his engagements because he couldn’t leave the county. He was a very friendly, gentle person.”

Toxicology tests showed that Mr Sanger had a small amount of alcohol in his body along with prescribed medication but Mr Roberts said they were not sufficient to cloud his judgement.

Mr Sanger’s solicitor, Tim Frost, said the organist, who had joined the Royal Academy of Music at 16 and became a renowned recitalist, teacher and composer, had had to cancel planned work commitments and holidays because of his bail conditions.

Mr Frost added: “He was adamant he wasn’t going to do anything to take his own life or put it at risk.

“I’d warned him of the nature of potential publicity.

“He did at the time assure me he’d got plenty of support from people locally and from his family.”

Mr Roberts said Mr Sanger, who had also released about 30 performance CDs and written a book for people learning the organ from scratch, was a well thought of and extremely talented organist who had given his life over to his art.

“It’s quite clear David Sanger had reached the pinnacle of the career one might enjoy in the world of organs in the UK.”

He recorded that Mr Sanger killed himself and told Peter Sanger: “Clearly the world of music and organs in particular has suffered a great loss with the death of your brother.”

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