‘Family man’ falls from Beachy Head after health anxieties

A ‘family man’ with anxiety about his health fell from Beachy Head - while professionals thought he was on a day out from the psychiatric ward with his wife, an inquest at Eastbourne heard last week (November 21).

Monday, 25th November 2019, 10:39 am
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 10:41 am

Brian Hunkin, 67, from Basingstoke, travelled on his own from Hampshire to Beachy Head, where he died on June 9, while the psychiatric team at the Beechwood Ward in Basingstoke thought he was out with his wife.

Mr Hunkin’s son, Matthew Hunkin, said in a statement, “He was a family man. His main focus was his three sons and eight grandchildren. His interests included sailing, walking and travelling.

“He was a cautious man and spent a lot of time worrying. He never liked to be out of control. He was very sociable and had many friends. He would admit he was one of the luckiest men alive, with all the friends and family around him.

“The last time I saw him we played Scrabble together. He said he would see me soon. In the last four months of his life Dad had suffered severe anxiety, which prevented him sleeping. He withdrew himself from friends and family.”

The inquest heard Mr Hunkin had tried to end his life two months prior to his death after taking an overdose of medication. He was taken to A&E and later checked in to the psychiatric ward.

Crispian Spring, a matron at the Beechwood Unit, said he believed Mr Hunkin had been going out for the day with his family and would be meeting his wife at the ward.

However, when Mr Hunkin did not come back to the hospital at the agreed time, Mr Spring contacted his wife, who said she had not seen her husband as she had been out shopping with her family.

The inquest heard staff at the unit ‘raised the alarm’ and Mr Hunkin was reported missing to police. His wife later said he had been found dead.

Mr Spring said, “Mr Hunkin was admitted on May 18 as an informal in-patient and remained that until his death.

“His diagnosis was depression with suicidal idealisation. His risk to self was considered high when he was admitted.

“Brian reported increasing feelings of anxiety, particularly anxiety around health and the safety of others. He started worrying about his dog’s health and his grandchildrens’. He was worried he would accidentally harm his wife while he was asleep.

“He felt there was no point in living and felt his family were better off without him.”

A toxicology report by Amber Crampton found no evidence of drugs or alcohol in the man’s system.

Coroner Alan Craze said, “Sadly, I think he had a depressive streak to his character, which was a real tragedy because there was no reason for that to be the case.” The coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.