Original article no longer available
Dec 17 2008
A pub landlord killed himself after becoming depressed by mounting debts and the strain of running the business, an inquest heard today.
Gaston Duval, 39, was found with a single gunshot wound to his chest in a bedroom at Ye Olde Kings Arms in Fernhurst, West Sussex, on September 15.
His wife of eight years, Christina, told the inquest that Mr Duval, who was known as Bill, had been feeling down in the weeks leading up to his death but she was not aware that he was suffering from depression.
The couple had previously run another pub together but Mrs Duval said that when they took over the Ye Olde Kings Arms at the beginning of the year she had not felt up to it as she was grieving for her father at the time.
The running of the pub consumed all of her husband’s time. “I think he’d bitten off a bit more than he could chew,” she said.
Their marriage had suffered as they rarely saw one another and by the time of Mr Duval’s death their main form of communication was by text message, she said.
Only after his death did she learn that Mr Duval, a trained chef originally from Newport, south Wales, had debts of around £100,000 and had been prescribed anti-depressants.
She told the Chichester inquest that the night before he died they had had an argument over the phone and she thought he was drinking, which he did not normally do.
She told him to go to bed and sleep it off and the next morning she went to work as usual at a local warehouse.
Mrs Duval told the inquest that when she had a tea break at around 10.30am she noticed she had a missed call from her husband at around 9.40am.
She thought this was strange as he would have known she could not have answered her mobile phone while she was at work.
She texted him to say she would speak to him later but soon afterwards a friend arrived at her workplace to tell her that something was wrong although she did not find out what had happened until she got to the pub later that morning.
The inquest heard that Mr Duval was found in a bedroom by staff at the pub.
The time of death was believed to be between 9.40am and 10.45am when some staff were already on the site but it was believed that the sound of the cleaner vacuuming could have masked the sound of the gunshot.
Mrs Duval told the inquest that she was unaware that Mr Duval owned a shotgun although he had previously had one for shooting rabbits.
Dr Greg Monteith said that a post mortem examination showed that Mr Duval died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Apart from being overweight with a slightly enlarged heart he was in otherwise good health.
No alcohol was detected in his system although a small amount of a drug commonly used to combat insomnia was detected.
Martin Milward, deputy coroner for West Sussex, said that although no note was found, the method of his death meant that he believed Mr Duval had meant to kill himself.
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Duval described her late husband as a “jolly Welshman”.
“Everybody loved Bill,” she added.