Coroner praises programme to prevent suicides — (Eastern Daily Press)

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Eastern Daily Press

David Bale

Saturday, August 3, 2013

John O’Neill, 67, from Gargle Hill, Thorpe St Andrew, was struck by a train near a railway crossing in Eaton, Norwich at about 5.45pm on March 23.

Yesterday’s Norwich inquest heard that he had twice visited the spot. On February 25 he was seen on the track and talked to by police officers. And then on March 18 officers visited his address after a man was seen at the same spot.

PC Mark Ollett, from British Transport Police, said Network Rail had set up a new programme to try and prevent the number of suicides on railway tracks. He said that Mr O’Neill, who was a single man, had been made aware of the programme and had been offered support from various agencies including the Samaritans.

The inquest heard that the train driver believed Mr O’Neill had “walked in front of the train on purpose”.

Summing up, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said he fully endorsed Network Rail’s programme. He said: “Network Rail is very concerned about the number of people taking their own lives on the tracks. And it has set up an intensive, proactive programme to prevent such deaths.

When people are found loitering on railway tracks, they are spoken to and offered support.”

The inquest was also attended by Sheila Marshall who was a lifelong friend of Mr O’Neill’s. She said he was a former teacher who had an MA from the University of Sussex, and was also a keen musician.

She said he called her less than an hour before he took his own life, and professed his love for her. No members of Mr O’Neill’s family attended the inquest. Mr O’Neill had been receiving help from the mental health team in Norfolk and occupational therapist Christopher Pitt said he had voluntarily stopped taking anti-depressant tablets just before his death, which he had warned against. The inquest was told that Mr O’Neill’s brother had committed suicide about 10 years before. A jury returned a verdict of suicide while suffering from a depressive illness.