Tributes paid to soldier who died at cliffs near Eastbourne

Tributes have been paid to a soldier from Southampton who died at cliffs near Eastbourne earlier this year.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:43 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:46 am

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall on Thursday (August 19), heard 56-year-old Jonathan Payne, from Furzedale Park in Southampton, died at Beachy Head on March 4.

Sarah Payne, his wife, said, “We were devoted to each other. He was a very generous man and step-father to my children.”

Mrs Payne said he had become distant over time, with night terrors and flashbacks being a regular occurrence in the eight months up to his death.

Eastbourne Town Hall SUS-210216-141625001

She said Mr Payne had served in the army for 35 years but ‘he worried for the future’ of his position.

On the morning of March 4 Mrs Payne said he said ‘love you’ and ‘see you later’ when he left. She said they also spoke on the phone at 2pm that day and he ‘sounded fine’.

A report from Police Sergeant Tod Stewart told the inquest Mr Payne had been reported missing in Hampshire that day after being demoted due to changes in the army structure.

Vehicle checks were done to trace Mr Payne to Beachy Head where he was recovered by the coastguard, PS Stewart said.

The inquest heard Mr Payne served in a particularly difficult army tour in 2013 and was suspected to have undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze ruled Mr Payne took his own life.

• 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.