A drone operator discovered a skeleton on the seashore at Beachy Head, eventually identified as a man who had been missing for four years, on July 4 2018, an inquest heard today.
The inquest at Eastbourne coroner’s court concluded the man had taken his own life some four years previously on the night of February 4 2014 or in the early hours of the following day.
Sakib Hassam Choudhury, then 21, of Brock Road, Tipton in Bristol, was identified from dental records and DNA that matched items found in car he had been driving on the day he disappeared, the court heard.
His remains, coroner Chris Wilkinson said, were found ‘entirely by chance’ by a member of the public.
He said: “The location where he was found was remote. It was on the waterline and it was between very large pieces of rock, which would have made it almost impossible to identify at the time and clearly had gone unnoticed for a number of years.”
He said that on the basis of evidence heard from mental health practioners and police in the days leading up to Mr Choudhury’s death, which had involved him being detained under the Mental Health Act, he was satisfied that Mr Choudhury had intended to take his own life.
Coroner Wilkinson concluded: “This is a very unusual and very sad and very tragic case. My heart can only go out to his family in relation to the circumstances in which they have lost their son and subsequently, some four years later, had it confirmed that he had in fact, died.”
He also apologised to the family, whose beliefs dictated that their son’s body be buried quickly, that there had been some delay in that and he hoped they could recognise the ‘significant efforts’ of emergency services and mental health services to protect and locate their son.
He said: “I do hope that in some measure, the Choudhury family will find some closure in relation to their son’s death.” The inquest heard Mr Choudhury, a second year student at university in Bristol, had been detained under the Mental Health Act the day before his death by a police officer at Beachy Head who had been concerned for his welfare.
After a night in a police cell, he was then assessed by consultant psychiatrists and an experienced mental health practitioner, who gave evidence at today’s inquest as to why Mr Choudhury was allowed to leave unaccompanied on the afternoon of February 4.
The court heard the plan was for Mr Choudhury to be picked up by a friend or family member and receive community care in Bristol but it became apparent that the family could not make the journey and were asking the wider community for help.
Mental health practictioner Sally Ashe said: “I explained that to Sakib and he was humiliated by that idea and his family going to all these people and explaining his situation.”
Given the assessment was already concluded, there was no legal basis to detain Mr Choudhury further, she said, and options ran out.
Trains were cancelled due to stormy weather and at 5.20pm Mr Choudhury was given back the keys to the car he had driven to Beachy Head the day before on the understanding he would text regular updates and his family would ring when he was home.
That night, Sakib was reported missing and the car he had borrowed from his father was found at Beachy Head. After three days searching for him, emergency services eventually had to give up.
Coroner Wilkinson said that it was ‘unfortunately not unusual’ that some people who went missing at Beachy Head were never found and bodies were never recovered.
He also expressed doubts 15 hours in a police cell ‘might not have been the most conducive environment for someone who already had mental health issues’.
But Sally Ashe said that in 2014, there were no other places of safety for people detained under the Act, and there had been ‘marked changes’ since then that ‘almost eliminated’ the chances of someone like Sakib being held in a police cell today.