Former Highland Games champion who shot himself in head with a bolt gun was stressed and depressed, inquest hears — (Daily Record)

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Daily Record


FATHER-of-four Stephen Aitken, 45, had been receiving treatment for stress and depression before he shot himself in the head at Darlington Farmers’ Auction Mart

A FORMER Highland Games champion shot himself with a bolt gun at a cattle market where he was a director.

Father-of-four Stephen Aitken, 45, had received treatment for depression after the stress of his job became too much, an inquest heard yesterday.

The auctioneer, who was from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, died in May last year after locking himself in his office at Darlington Farmers’ Auction Mart and shooting himself in the head.

His partner Catherine Sheret, who worked with him for 15 years and is the mother of his two daughters, told 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.”

Stephen, a former heavyweight champion on the Highland Games circuit for 25 years, was found after colleagues heard a noise from the office. When they broke the door down, he was found slumped at his desk.

The bolt gun, used if livestock got injured at the market, was found by his side.

Paramedics found he still had a pulse but he had a huge head injury and he died in hospital later.

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

Stephen had suffered from anxiety, insomnia and depression for more than a year.

He had sought treatment, including a night at a psychiatric unit, and was prescribed a series of antidepressants and sleeping pills.

He had seen his GP and a consultant psychiatrist several times and was signed off work. By the time he returned to the mart, friends and family believed he was recovering.

Fellow auctioneer Andrew Armstrong told the inquest that Stephen once discussed using the bolt gun on himself but they had talked about it and the issue appeared to go away.

Andrew told the hearing: “He was a strong-minded character. We tried and sometimes he would accept help. I didn’t think it would come to this.”

Police ruled out any third party involvement, the inquest heard.

Teesside coroner Clare Bailey returned a verdict that Stephen, of Ingleby Barwick, Yorkshire, killed himself.

She said that despite his depression, he could make decisions for himself, that he was not intoxicated and that firing the bolt required four actions.

Stephen’s friend Jim Brown, ­president of the Scottish Highland Games Association, said afterwards: “He gave so much to Highland Games and will always be mentioned by games writers and historians.

“However, records do not tell the whole story about this generous, caring and gifted athlete, who gave so much and had still so much to give.”