Disabled man took his own life

Stuart Wickison
Stuart Wickison

A 23-YEAR-OLD disabled man who could only move his fingers was ‘in control’ when he took his own life at Shinewater pond, an inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates Court has heard.

Stuart Wickison, who had been wheelchair bound for many years, was severely disabled with Duchenne muscular-dystophy, but was an intelligent man who campaigned for the rights of young disabled people, studied at college and enjoyed music and poetry.

Stuart, who lived at Shinewater Court with full-time care, took his life by driving into a lake in his motorised wheelchair on August 2, 2011.

Coroner Alan Craze was told Mr Wickison wanted to remain independent despite his life-limiting disability which meant he was unable to dress or feed himself.

He was hoisted into his wheelchair daily and was only able to eat, speak, support his head and operate his wheelchair and computer with the movement he had in his fingers.

His parents Dave and Mandy Wickison, who live in Heathfield, were not able to attend the inquest but in a statement read at the hearing Mr Wickison described his son as ‘an articulate and sensitive man’.

His mother and father would talk to Stuart on the phone but his carer would have to hold the phone to his ear.

His father told Mr Craze that his son was one of only a few people with the condition to live to 23. He also explained Stuart had suffered from a chest infection when he was 20 which nearly claimed his life.

Jane Streeter from Demelza House Hospice at Home had been working with Stuart for around 11 years and had become very close to him.

She said, “He knew his mind. He was determined to remain in control and he sought to do the best he could. He always strived and rose to the challenge.”

The inquest heard MrWickison had a partner called Jamie and wanted to move in with him but was finding it difficult to arrange because of his disability.

In the days before his death, he arranged to see his family and those close to him. On the day before he took his life, he went for a walk with carer Pam Jackson around Shinewater Pond. Pam said he was making comments about how deep the water was and she now believes the walk on that day was a ‘recce’.

On August 2 last year, Stuart saw his partner Jamie and Jane from Demelza and drove to the pond in his wheelchair. The cause of death was drowning.

All the witnesses at the inquest, including Mr Wickison’s parents, said they believed he intentionally took his own life.

Mr Craze recorded a verdict of suicide and described it as a ‘unique case’.

He said Stuart was a ‘brave and determined’ man who had stayed in control until the end.

Mr Craze added, “His family and partner Jamie knew he had a limited life, but this was not expected and will have come as a terrible shock.”