Pensioner drove over Beachy Head in scooter believing wife had cancer

Beachy Head lighthouse and tributes to tho e whe have died there. November 8th 2012 E45152N
Beachy Head lighthouse and tributes to tho e whe have died there. November 8th 2012 E45152N

A dementia suffer who deliberately drove over cliffs at Beachy Head in his mobility scooter was worried about the future because his wife had cancer, an inquest has heard.

At the hearing into Victor Newton’s death yesterday (Thursday) his niece Maria Kay said she feared the news was the last straw – however, just one week after his death his wife was given the all clear.

At the inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates Court deputy coroner Christopher Wilkinson heard that the 81-year-old had bought a new scooter a month before his death as he didn’t believe the one he had was powerful enough to get him to Beachy Head. On the afternoon of his death on August 5 last year the pensioner, who had tried to take his life before, had been heard muttering to himself.

Steven Vogel, who had come over to England from America and was visiting the spot with friends, had spoken to the Pembury Road resident. A statement read on his behalf at the inquest said Mr Newton had passed them earlier in the afternoon and was going ‘flat out’ on the scooter.

He later saw him by the cliffs out of his scooter, and his statement read, “He seemed to be praying and crying. Because of the war memorials I wondered if he was on some pilgrimage. I heard him say,“I don’t know if I should live or if I should die.”

Mr Vogel said he went over and made conversation with Mr Newton and the pensioner told him, “I just want to go” and said “I’m tired, I’m just so tired”.

He told the man to take care and said moments later Mr Newton started up the scooter and despite attempts by people nearby to catch him he went over the edge. A post mortem showed he had died due to multiple injuries.

The inquest was told his wife had raised concerns over her spouse’s welfare in June 2011 saying he had difficulty swallowing and chewing. He was seen by a dietician and was also reviewed by a psychiatrist. Early onset dementia was later discovered and he was seen by the mental health team.

Niece Maria Kay, who visited her uncle four or fives times a week, said her aunt had secondary cancer adding, “I think the cancer tipped him over, who would look after him if she went? He was declining quickly. He had it in his mind she was going to die.” She described her uncle, who also had Alzheimer’s, as ‘a very nice man’.

Mr Wilkinson recorded a verdict of suicide.

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