Ex-Highland Games champion shot himself with bolt gun at cattle mart — (Herald Scotland)

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Herald Scotland

An auctioneer who shot himself with a bolt gun at a busy cattle mart where he was a director was fighting depression, an inquest heard today.

Former Highland Games heavyweight champion Stephen Aitken, 45, had sought treatment for the illness after the stress of running Darlington Farmers’ Auction Mart became too much.

The father-of-four died in the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, on May 14 last year after locking himself in his cramped office and shooting himself in the head with the “humane killer”.

Teesside Coroner Clare Bailey returned a verdict that he killed himself having heard that despite his depression he could still make decisions for himself, that he was not intoxicated at the time, and that to fire the bolt would require at least four deliberate actions.

His partner Catherine Sheret, with whom he lived and worked for 15 years and who is the mother of his two daughters, said in a statement read out at the inquest that she could not explain his actions.

She said: “Stephen had never harmed himself, never threatened to do anything.

“I am absolutely at a loss to explain it.”

The 34-year-old, who lived with Mr Aitken at Ingleby Barwick, Teesside, arrived at work after him and found police were already at the scene.

Fellow auctioneer Andrew Armstrong and other colleagues had raised the alarm when Mr Aitken, who had two teenage sons from a previous relationship, went missing.

They heard a noise from the locked office and when they broke the door down he was found slumped at his desk.

Paramedics found he still had a pulse but he had suffered a catastrophic brain injury and died in hospital later.

Pathologist Dr Edward Carling said: “It was a massive, unsurvivable brain injury.”

Note: Toxicology report showed antidepressant in his blood.