Tragic last message to family

A BODY found washed up on the beach at Hastings was that of a 28 year old man who jumped to his death at Beachy Head, an inquest heard.

Student Timothy Smith had sent a text to immediate family saying, “I love you more than life itself. Please forgive me. I don’t know why.”

This week an inquest was held in Hastings which pieced together the last days of the Crawley man living in Nottingham.

It was attended by his mother and two sisters who learned how he was found by Shirley Hanson of De La Warr Parade on the morning of December 14 while out walking her dog at 7.40am. She saw a shape on the pebbles and was “very shocked and shaken” when she realised it was a human body, unclothed apart from a shredded blue t shirt, and strewn with seaweed.

Coroner Alan Craze heard from pathologist Dr Stanford Mathe that there were multiple injuries, external and internal, and signs of extended exposure to water which he described as like “washerwoman’s hands”.

The coroner judged the severity and scale of the injuries more likely to have been caused by falling from the 400ft cliff at Beachy Head than the 80ft drop at Galley Hill, and felt that the sea had brought the body round the coastline from west to east.

He asked the family about Smith’s state of mind and heard that he was a “kind, thoughtful, and caring person” who may have become stressed by the pressure of study at Nottingham University.

The deceased was the youngest of six children who got on well with brothers and sisters and was popular in his group of friends.

He had a gap year during which time he worked on building sites as a labourer but then returned to university for his masters’ degree.

Sister Helen said: “He was very self-contained. Steady.”

The coroner heard how Smith may have been worried about not handing in an assignment on time and had made an appointment with his tutor which he then never kept. Instead he travelled to Liverpool and caught a train to Eastbourne, knowing the area well because he had walked across the South Downs.

His family felt that none of them had known he was feeling anxious or depressed, and his friends also didn’t realise that he had problems or concerns.

“They don’t know why,” said his mother. “He was their confidant. Friends went to him.”

The coroner said had it not been for the text message he would have returned a verdict of accidental death because there was no other strong evidence otherwise. However, because of the words sent out from his mobile phone, he “firmly” believed Smith had taken his own life at Beachy Head, which indicated “considerable desperation”, adding as part of the verdict that he was disturbed and had lost the balance of his mind.

He told the family, “It is devastating for you and that will never change.” If you need to contact The Samaritans, call the 24-hour telephone number 08457-909090 or email: jo@asamaritans.org