independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Depressed police officer jumped off railway bridge to his death, inquest told

Tom Wilkinson

A DEDICATED senior police officer with a history of depression jumped off a railway viaduct the day after seeing his community mental health nurse, an inquest heard today.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Swinson was six months from retiring as Cleveland Police's Head of Crime when he fell to his death in Yarm, Teesside, England last March.

The superfit 47-year-old married father-of-two was devoted to his family and loved his job, but found the role stressful, Teesside Coroner's Court heard.

The force has been subject to investigations into corruption but Mr Swinson was under no suspicion and had been reassured by the then temporary Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer when he was off work sick.

Mr Swinson, a triathlete, suffered recurring bouts of depression and had tried to kill himself in 1993, the court heard.

In February last year he was treated in hospital after feeling suicidal and after treatment was released to go home to his wife Susan, with input from the community health nursing team.

Amid growing concerns about his mental health, Stockton-based Mental Health Nurse Nick Lovett spoke to Mr Swinson for 50 minutes on the phone the day before he died, then visited him for over an hour.

Mr Swinson's widow, a 46-year-old nurse, told the inquest Mr Lovett should have taken more notice of her concerns for her husband.

"Why didn't you take my comments more seriously, knowing I was a nurse? I told you how agitated and unwell he had been," she said.

Mr Lovett replied: "I did take it seriously."

An appointment had been made to see him again in nine days, after Mr Swinson had been on a family break to the Lake District.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Kenneth Mitchell who had treated Mr Swinson in hospital earlier said his patient had fleeting thoughts of killing himself or his family, having seen reports about other fathers doing that.

But he never had any intention of acting on those images, the psychiatrist said.

"The thought of such acts and images was horrific to him," Dr Mitchell said.

Mr Swinson was staying at the home of his parents-in-law Lawrence and Rita Watson the night before he died.

He talked to Mr Watson, a retired police officer, for three-to-four hours that evening.

"We couldn't reassure him that things would be OK. He worried greatly about everything and especially his work," Mr Watson said.

"This whole situation has been very hard for us.

"Stewart was like a son to us. It is a terrible tragedy he ended his own life."

The next morning Mr Watson went to play golf and dropped Mr Swinson off at his club in Eaglescliffe, so his son-in-law could walk 20 minutes into Yarm for the exercise.

But he went onto the railway bridge over the Tees, and after almost being hit by a passenger train, shocking the driver who slammed on the brakes, he jumped as the conductor watched from the back window of the last carriage.

Mrs Swinson arrived at the scene soon after, having been worried by not being able to contact her husband.

In a statement read out for her at the inquest, she said being made head of crime was the "proudest moment of his career".

"It was a bit more stressful due to the issues going on. He was coping but looking forward to retiring."

They were "financially secure" and he was hoping to find a less stressful job after the police.

Coroner Michael Sheffield, who ruled Mr Swinson killed himself, said: "The evidence shows Stewart Swinson was a remarkable gentleman.

"He suffered badly from depression, certainly as far back as 1993."

Assistant Chief Constable Sean White, said afterwards: "We all miss and will always remember Stewart, who was an outstanding police officer, leader and a treasured and much-loved husband, father, son and brother.

"He made an outstanding contribution to policing over three decades and we are very proud of his achievements."

Press Association

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