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Inquest hears boxer Darren Sutherland talked about suicide and was ‘scared’ of manager Frank Maloney

OLYMPIC bronze medalist boxer, who was found hanged, talked about suicide and said he was "scared" of his manager Frank Maloney, his inquest heard today.

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

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

His friend Ismay Bourke said he was worried about possibly having to repay Mr Maloney £90,000 €107,954 if he stopped fighting.

She said: "He was scared of Frank."

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

She answered: "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.'"

Miss 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.

The medal winner was so worried he had an anxiety attack and could not sleep, said Miss Bourke.

She said three days before he was found dead, she accompanied Mr Sutherland to a fight night where they were front row spectators and where he was "distraught".

She said: "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 said he was so unhappy he worried it would affect his driving.

At the fight, she said of him: "He didn't really watch.

"He kept his head down. He wanted me to keep him focused, keep him together.

"His whole demeanour was that he was scared.

"'Just keep me together,' he kept saying."

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.

"He felt everything was ruined, his reputation."

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

She said: "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.

The doctor said he did not really have the time to talk to him but did so because Mr Maloney said he was worried about him and because he had treated him a few weeks earlier when Mr Sutherland confided that he was thinking of quitting boxing.

Dr Buckland said: "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."

The doctor said he thought Mr Sutherland was "quite an introverted individual, quite a closed individual" who was insistent that he did not tell Mr Maloney that 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 QC, 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 wants you to know."

The inquest continues tomorrow.