Man who killed himself was haunted by death of young teacher, inquest hears — (Bucks Free Press)

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Bucks Free Press

26 Aug 2015

A man hanged himself because he could not cope with knowing his car had killed a woman when it skidded on a flooded road, an inquest heard today.

Mathew Bristow, 24, took his own life after failing to “come to terms” with the fatal crash in Chalfont St Peter five years ago which 23-year-old schoolteacher Sarah Stacey – known as Elaine.

Miss Stacey was on route to her Denham home after helping at a Girl Guide event in Chalfont St Peter in February 2010 when she was involved in a collision on the A413.

Father-of-one Mr Bristow, of Iverdale Close, Iver, left a suicide note explaining his actions and asked for it to be read out at his funeral, but tragically the note was not found until a month after his death.

The Coroner’s Court heard that the note was found folded up in a cupboard in his bedroom and the police were immediately contacted by his father.

The mechanic, who had a three-year-old son, wrote about the impact of the accident on his mental capacity and thought processes and also chose the music he wanted to be played at his funeral.

He revealed in the note that he felt he had destroyed two families in the crash five years earlier.

Speaking at the inquest in Beaconsfield, his father, Mark Bristow, said: “He never came to terms with the fact that he was involved in an accident where he was the driver of a car where a young girl died seven days later.

“He referred to it in the letter we found after his death.”

The coroner was told that Mr Bristow found his son hanging on June 12 and called emergency services.

But his suicide note was not found until July.

The court heard how the psychological impact of the incident led to Mr Bristow becoming depressed and being prescribed anti-depressants.

His father added: “He was diabetic and we went into his room to take back the equipment and medication he used and I found the note which was folded up on a shelf, on Friday July 10.

“He wrote the letter in the style of a tribute to be read at his own funeral.

“He talks about the road traffic accident and the impact it had on him over the last five years. He talks about the fact it destroyed two families and the impact on his mental capacity and thought processes.

“He felt he was not as quick-witted and intelligent as he once was. He also talked about some of the good times with family and friends and his three-year-old son.

“He said at the bottom of the note ‘I just don’t want to leave any unanswered questions. He even chose the music he wanted at his funeral.

“It was six days before his 25th birthday.”

In October 2010 an inquest into Miss Stacey’s death determined Mr Bristow had not been driving too quickly or recklessly but the accident was the result of seriously flooded drains.

Miss Stacey, a teacher at Viking Primary School in Ealing, west London died in hospital from serious head injuries following the accident on February 28.

Her car was hit after a Ford Focus lost control after hitting the 70 metre long and 15cms deep stretch of water on the road and crossed the central reservation into the path of Miss Stacey’s oncoming Fiat Punto.

The inquest heard that the water covered an entire section of one lane of the dual carriageway and some of the other lane, meaning that it was extremely difficult to see and react to on the unlit road.

The driver of the Ford Focus, Mr Bristow, hit the water and swerved to try to avoid it but lost control of his vehicle and ended up crossing onto the other side of the dual carriageway and turning upside down in the face of oncoming traffic.

The inquest heard that the drains on the road had become clogged with debris including foliage and other dirt and had not been cleaned in nearly a year.

Summing up the circumstances of Mathew’s death, Senior Buckinghamshire Coroner Richard Hulett said: “The fact is that on that day his state of mind finally overwhelmed him. While alone in the house he did what he did. The proper conclusion is that he took his own life.”

– Family of Matthew Bristow: An apology

An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that Mr Bristow was found on June 11, and was certified dead the next day.

In fact, Mr Bristow was found and certified dead on June 12.

In addition, the article quoted Mark Bristow as stating that he found the note from his son in July.

In fact, Mr Bristow did not specify whether it was him or his wife who found the note during the inquest proceedings.

The article stated that Mr Bristow’s car had hit a 70ft stretch of water caused by flooded drains in a car accident in 2010 when in fact, the stretch of water was 70m long.

We are happy to correct these inaccuracies, and the article has been amended accordingly.

In addition, we would like to make clear that in relation to the car crash in 2010. Mr Bristow was held not to be at fault.

We apologise to Mr Bristow’s family for these inaccuracies, and for any distress caused.