Former Child Prodigy Jumped from Balcony — (The Scotsman)

Original article no longer available

The Scotsman

By David Stringer

May 18, 2005

A teenager, who as a prodigy scored an A* grade GCSE at the age of 10, hurled himself from the balcony of his luxury student flat after a female friend rejected his advances, an inquest heard today.

Michael Chan, 19, had been one of the youngest ever to achieve the score in mathematics and went on to win a scholarship to a top private school where he collected six A grade A-levels.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard that the teenager, who also showed a flair for languages, music and sport, sank into a depression whilst reading chemistry at Imperial College and kept a diary detailing his failed pursuit of a fellow student.

His father Charlie Chan, of Luton, Bedfordshire, told the court that he had only learned of his “brilliant” son’s depression after his death in March.

“Michael won a scholarship to Bedford School after he scored the top marks in Latin at the entrance exam,” said Mr Chan.

“He then got 15 A grade GCSEs, 11 of them A* and 6 A grade A-levels, but also loved music and would compose songs on his guitar and went to the Glastonbury festival.

“We now know that as an adult he was seen by the doctors, we didn’t know at the time that he had a great depression.

“He didn’t tell me and he didn’t know it would have been more important and useful to talk to me.”

The court was told that Michael had been born in Hong Kong and moved to Britain in 1990, living with his father when his mother moved out of the family home.

His parents said he had been a popular student, but his GP at Imperial College said she prescribed Mr Chan an anti-depressant and that he told her he had few friends on his course.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said he had emergency psychiatric help after taking an overdose of tablets in December and admitted he had experienced violent mood swings for six months.

Dr Irene Weinreb, of Imperial College, told the inquest: “He had been depressed and had suicidal thoughts, triggered by a falling out with a female friend he presumed was his girlfriend.”

She said that she had encouraged her patient to discuss his feelings with his parents, but confirmed that she and her colleagues had not considered telling his family.

Dr Knapman told Mr Chan’s parents: “The medical profession take confidentiality very seriously, there are some people who think they are obsessed by it.”

The court heard that on March 19, Mr Chan was discovered with a fractured skull on a road underneath his balcony at the plush Point West apartment block in South Kensington.

Police said his bath was found splattered with blood and confirmed two soiled razor blades and a partially drunk bottle of whisky were recovered close by.

“There were very chilling footprints in blood made by a person who had walked across the carpet to the balcony,” said Dr Knapman.

A post-mortem found the student had made countless deep slashes to his neck and forearms before throwing himself around 50ft from the first floor balcony.

Dr Knapman said Michael had written a note to say “life was too painful for him” and added: “Mr Chan’s family later found a diary in which he had written poems expressing his feelings about a certain girl.”

Recording a verdict of suicide, he said: “This was a painful and tragic death of a man with a great future before him.”