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Boxer talked about suicide and was scared of manager, court told

An Olympic bronze medallist boxer who was found hanged talked about suicide and said he was "scared" of his manager Frank Maloney, his inquest heard yesterday.

Darren Sutherland, who turned professional after winning bronze for Ireland at the 2008 Beijing games, was discovered dead at his home in Bromley, Kent, in the UK, on September 14, 2009.

The 27-year-old was "stressed" about a cut under his eye that would not heal and whether he should give up boxing, Croydon Coroner's Court heard.

His friend, Ismay Bourke, said that Mr Sutherland was worried about possibly having to repay Mr Maloney £90,000 (€107,000) if he stopped fighting.

Ms Bourke said: "He was scared of Frank."

The coroner, Dr Roy Palmer, asked: "He told you that?"

"Yes. I was trying to say 'He is your manager, you can talk to him, it will be fine'. He was like, 'No, you don't understand'."

Ms Bourke said Mr Maloney had told the fighter that he had remortgaged his house for him and that Mr Sutherland believed he would "destroy him and his family" if he turned his back on his contract.

Anxiety

Mr Sutherland was so worried that he had an anxiety attack and could not sleep, Ms Bourke said.

The court also heard that Mr Sutherland joked about killing himself to Joe Dunbar, a physiologist who worked with him, between two and three weeks before his death but then later laughed off the suggestion.

Mr Dunbar, who was with Mr Maloney when they found Mr Sutherland dead in his flat, said he was not surprised that he would kill himself following the conversations they had in the previous days where Darren sounded "incredibly low".

Ms Bourke, meanwhile, said three days before he was found dead she accompanied him to a fight night where they were front-row spectators and where he was "distraught".

"He was all over the place. He seemed really, really frightened, terrified . . . I said we don't have to go and he said he had to go. Frank said he had to go and there would be trouble if he didn't go."

She added: "He was basically saying Frank had told him he had remortgaged his house on him. He genuinely seemed frightened of him and what he could do to him and his family and his career."

Ms Bourke said on their way back, Mr Sutherland said he "felt trapped and there was no way out".

"He said he was thinking the only way out was to kill himself. I slapped him on the head and said don't say that."

She went on to say the boxer later told her he "would never do such a thing".

Dr Anthony Buckland, a GP and a British Board of Boxing Control doctor, also saw Mr Sutherland at the fight night.

Worried

"He said he was under boxing pressure to train and had a fight booked on October 16 and he wasn't sure if he had the confidence to go ahead and train," Dr Buckland said.

He added that he thought Mr Sutherland was "quite an introverted individual, quite a closed individual" who was insistent that he (the doctor) did not tell Mr Maloney he was thinking of quitting.

But he said he did not think the fighter was frightened of Mr Maloney.

The inquest heard that a big concern for Mr Sutherland was the cut he sustained during a fight on June 30. It would not heal and became infected.

Mr Sutherland's trainer, Bryan Lawrence, told the inquest it was up to him, not Mr Maloney or Mr Sutherland, whether he fought, and the fight on October 16 had been scrubbed because of his eye.

Mr Lawrence, who was possibly the last person to speak to Mr Sutherland, said it would not have been a problem if he wanted to quit the sport.

Breaking down in tears, he said Mr Sutherland was "a very complicated young man".

"If it wasn't the eye or something, it would have been something else," he said.

"With Darren's personality it would have been something else. His personality, he worried about everything."

Michael Topolski, the Sutherland family barrister, asked: "Too intelligent and sensitive to be a boxer?"

"Maybe he was," answered Mr Lawrence. "And he could mask things as well. Darren would let you know what he wanted you to know."

On Monday, the court heard of notes left in Mr Sutherland's flat which detailed the effects of him quitting, including that he would be hunted by the media and Mr Maloney would "destroy him".

Yesterday, Darren's friend and adviser Declan Brennan said he wrote them down but that some were concerns the boxer was having himself.

The inquest continues today.

Irish Independent