HAILSHAM: Man’s Beachy Head fall death probably suicide

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A FATHER of three died after plunging 200 feet down the cliff face of Beachy Head.

Julian Smith’s body was recovered by coastguards on November 19 last year after the 50-year-old has driven to Eastbourne with his pet dog.

A coroner this week told Mr Smith’s sister, Victoria Peters, that his death was most likely the result of a successful suicide attempt but said the lack of a suicide note meant the family would never know whether he did in fact jump, or tripped instead.

Mrs Peters spoke at length about her brother’s long battle with depression - a battle which twice saw him stay in hospital for mental health treatment.

The former sales manager at Hewlett Packard had struggled to get over a host of problems, including redundancy and the break-up of his marriage, and had previously spoken of both his desire to self-harm and the possibility of suicide.

However, Mrs Peters said she and her brother had enjoyed a shared breakfast on the day of his death and that, ‘he spoke beautifully that morning and I thought I had got my brother back.’

She added that had Mr Smith told her of his intention to drive to Beachy Head with his beloved dog, she would not have been worried - particularly because Eastbourne held such special memories for the family.

“He loved Eastbourne,” she told Coroner Alan Craze. “Beachy Head was his favourite spot.

“We used to have our bucket and spade holidays there [in Eastbourne]. It was a very happy place for him.”

Mr Craze, recording an open verdict, said he firmly believed it was probably suicide but lamented the fact the burden of proof prevented him from recording it as an official suicide.

He said, “There is no other reason why he would drive to Beachy Head but where there is no suicide note or expression of suicidal intent and when you factor in the fact he brought his dog down and it was dark and therefore easier to lose your footing we have to say it is not beyond reasonable doubt it was suicide.”