Man with history of depression took his own life

Date: Saturday 12th June 2004

A MAN with a history of depression committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree at Dalemain woods.

Francis Nicholas Matthews, aged 24, Willingham Close, London, had been visiting his sister, Ingrid, at Keeper's Cottage, Dalemain, when he decided to take his own life.

He went missing from his sister's home on 11th June last year and was found dead shortly after 2am the next day by police. Although his sister had not known her brother was missing until she returned home from work at about 6pm, she realised something was seriously wrong when she found his diaries and an entry read "find a tree and do it".

Giving evidence at the inquest, Ingrid Matthews said that her brother had suffered a breakdown about four years previously, but she had not been aware that he had been prescribed medication for depression just a few weeks before his death.

Miss Matthews said that about two months before her brother came to visit her on 6th June, 2003, a friend of his was killed by another friend who was schizophrenic and then, in the June, a second friend was killed in a fire.

She said: "He came to stay at Keeper's Cottage to get away from it all. He was very tired, very quiet and quite depressed. He was very withdrawn. He didn't want to talk a great deal. He spent some time with Pete, my partner, but he still didn't talk a great deal. He opened up a bit about his friends, but he didn't want to talk about it."

Miss Matthews said that on the day her brother went missing, they had made a tentative arrangement to go climbing when she returned from her job as an outdoor pursuits instructor at Windermere, but he was not there when she returned home.

She said: "I had a gut feeling that something was wrong. He had not eaten anything that day. He hadn't even had a cup of tea. I don't know anything about his movements during the day at all. The last time I saw him was midnight on 10th June. He seemed more upbeat than he had been before."

Miss Matthews said she became more concerned when she went into her brother's room and found his diaries, which he always carried with him since his breakdown, as he had suffered from short term memory loss. When she looked inside, his entry for 11th June was "find a tree and do it".

After a search of pubs in Pooley Bridge and then Penrith, as the football has been on that evening, Miss Matthews decided to call in the police station, taking a photograph of Mr. Matthews and his diaries with her as evidence.

Mr. Matthews was found about 30 metres along a dirt track from the cottage, hanging from a tree a little way off the road.

Mr. Matthews's father, Richard, said he had spoken to his son just after 10-30pm on 11th June and he had told him he would be returning to London the next day, which he saw as a positive sign.

Mr. Matthews added that his son had, just a week or two earlier, been discussing going to Australia or New Zealand to continue his studies of philosophy and had been in "good spirits".

Deputy coroner for North East Cumbria Michael Robson considered expert evidence about the effects of the drugs Mr. Matthews had been taking, which had a recognised side effect of increased suicidal thoughts in the early weeks of treatment and carried a warning as such on the medication literature.

Medical director of Lundbeck Ltd., Manchester, Dr. Chris Muldoon, said that the drug, which worked by increasing the levels of serotonin to the brain, could make a person less apathetic, before making them less depressed — meaning that they might be more likely to do something about their suicidal thoughts.

Mr. Robson said he would pass a report to the relevant authority stating that such warnings should feature on literature prominently.

Recording a verdict of suicide, he said that although Mr. Matthews had not left a suicide note, his entry in the diary indicated he did intend to take his life and the remote spot he chose to do it, along with the fact that his diaries were not in a place they were easy to find, suggested he did not intend to be found before he was dead.