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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Young Cumbrian dad hanged himself after sending ‘goodbye’ texts

A “happy-go-lucky” young father sent ‘goodbye’ texts before he hanged himself, an inquest was told.

Michael Robert Hetherington, 23, was found dead at his home at Latrigg Road, Whitehaven, on March 22.

An inquest heard how he had recently split from his fiancée, was in debt and had told a nurse practitioner he was feeling “low and over-whelmed”.

A post mortem revealed the cause of death to be hanging. Coroner David Roberts recorded a verdict of suicide.

The inquest, held at West Cumbria Courthouse, heard how Mr Hetherington had sent texts on the day he died to his ex-fiancée, Sophie Bell, his father, Michael Hetherington senior, and best friend, Dean Smith. The texts contained the phrase: “It’s not your fault”.

A police bail notice was also found near his body following an incident the day before his death which had resulted in allegations of affray and criminal damage.

Mr Hetherington had been prescribed anti-depressants following a visit to a nurse practitioner in February, when he told her he wasn’t sleeping or eating and admitted “everything was falling apart”.

Best friend Mr Smith told the inquest Mr Hetherington “didn’t show emotions” and “wouldn’t have liked to ask for help”.

After receiving the text from his friend on March 22, around 6pm, he had tried to ring him, but there was no answer. When Mr Smith, who had been at work, later went around to his friend’s home, he saw, through the letterbox, Mr Hetherington’s body and raised the alarm.

Sophie Bell, who was mother to Mr Hetherington’s one-year-old son, Sam, said she had known her fiancé for around eight years. He was a “good dad” but there had been tensions in the relationship due to his drinking and they had debts.

She left their home, at Latrigg Road, at the start of February to live with her mother, but admitted she had continued to see Mr Hetherington. “He was fine, because we were still fine,” Miss Bell said.

The incident which had resulted in the affray allegations had involved Mr Hetherington smashing windows at the home of her mother’s neighbour and “mooning” at him by dropping his trousers. Mr Hetherington had believed the neighbour had been throwing stones at his son’s pram.

Michael Hetherington snr said his son – whom “everybody loved” – had been “over the moon” at the birth of Sam.

He told the inquest his son had hidden his emotions from him and “didn’t want me to get stressed out”. Mr Hetherington snr, who is battling cancer, said his son was moving in with him at Maryport and letting Sophie take over the tenancy at Latrigg Road.

Referring to the incident with the neighbour, Mr Hetherington said his son’s behaviour was “totally out of character”. On the day he died, Mr Hetherington had called his dad “wanting a bit of company” but his father didn’t make the journey as he was due to see him the following day.

Mr Hetherington was always joking, his father told the inquest, so didn’t think anything of the text he received saying “It isn’t your fault”.

His son, Mr Hetherington snr added, was “making plans...nothing indicated he would take his own life”.

Sheila Matloob, Mr Hetherington’s mother, said her son had stayed with her just days prior to his death. “He was chatty and we talked and talked. He was making plans for the future and had sorted his problems.”

She also said Mr Hetherington, who was “happy-go-lucky”, had admitted taking drugs. He had also alleged Miss Bell’s father, Paul Latham, had made threats towards him. However, speaking at the inquest, Mr Latham, said: “I had no reason to threaten him.”

Summing up, Mr Roberts said the texts received by Mr Hetherington’s loved ones were “clearly goodbye notes”. The coroner said Mr Hetherington had been “under various sorts of pressure and had dwelt on thoughts”.

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