Hove driving instructor found dead at Eastbourne cliffs

Coastguard were sent to the scene
Coastguard were sent to the scene

A “lovely” and “caring” driving instructor from Hove was found dead at Eastbourne cliffs.

Phillip Wickens, of Rutland Road, was a “talented musician”, loved to travel, motorbike, draw, and was very close to his family, an inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall heard on Thursday (August 1).

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The 52-year-old’s body was found at the foot of the cliffs at Beachy Head in May this year.

His sister Paula Nye said in a statement: “He was a lovely, caring person with a good sense of humour. He was very close to my family. We were all devastated by his death.

“He had many friends and interests, he was a talented musician, and studied judo.

“He had a motorbike which he kept in pristine condition. He would ride around Europe with it. He was artistic, some of his drawings had been put on display.”

She said in recent months her brother had confided in her he felt very low and had been thinking about events which happened years ago. “He was perhaps feeling overwhelmed and not in a good place.”

But she said he had wanted to be a live donor and had filled in a form ready to send days before he died.

The inquest also heard a statement from Mr Wickens’ friend of 26 years, Carolyn Mercer, who had met him while training to be a driving instructor.

She said: “I was shocked. He was a very kind and gentle person. His interests were many – travelling, biking with his friends. He loved his family very much, his nephews and nieces.”

But she said in recent months he was a “changed man”. “He was always a happy, positive, upbeat person. But the Phil in the last few weeks was very different.

“He looked very serious, his sense of fun had gone. He kept thinking about the things that had happened in the past. He couldn’t clear his head.”

The inquest heard Mr Wickens had visited his GP in the months before his death with symptoms of anxiety and depression. He was prescribed antidepressants in April but he died before their effects could be felt, the coroner said.

Alan Craze said: “It’s very well known you have got to have taken them for a month before you start noticing the benefits and he hadn’t quite got that far.

“It seems to me the right decisions were made for him, it’s just a pity this happened to him so quickly afterwards.”

Mr Wickens’ body was recovered by emergency services from a beach below the Eastbourne cliffs on May 5.

Mr Craze said it was a “very tragic” case: “There’s no warning to anybody, no notes left, no texts in advance.”

The coroner concluded Mr Wickens died by 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.