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This is Wirral
By Kelly Barker
A UNIVERSITY toxicology lecturer swallowed cyanide in front of his fiance, an inquest heard.
Father-of-two Dr Francis Charles Manning began to choke and gasp for air when he swallowed the deadly poison at his West Kirby home.
His partner Sara Routledge, who believed he had taken painkillers, tried frantically to resuscitate him but he was later pronounced dead at Arrowe Park Hospital.
The 41-year-old divorcee worked as a lecturer in toxicology and biochemistry at Liverpool John Moores University, and was being treated for depression.
An inquest at Wallasey Town Hall heard that during the 1990s while his ex-wife was working in America, Dr Manning had contacted her to tell her of his depression and that he was taking ethanol despite knowing its damaging effects.
Worried about her husband, who was then working on his PhD, she asked his head of department to remove the pure alcohol from his access.
Coroner’s officer Donald Johnson told the court that the doctor had been taking anti-depressants for five weeks before he died, and that his relationship with his fiance had become strained.
On September 30, Sara Routledge had spent the night with friends when she awoke the next morning to find a text from Dr Manning which read: “Help.”
“His profession, in my opinion, made him completely aware of his actions and the consequences”
Wirral Coroner Christopher Johnson
Another message from him had begged her not to go out and leave him alone.
On the morning of October 1, Ms Routledge tried to call her partner’s landline and mobile phone fearing that he had harmed himself.
But when she got no reply, a friend dropped her off at the couple’s home in Westbourne Grove at 9.40am, where she found Dr Manning on the sofa with his hands covering his face.
Ms Routledge told coroner’s officers that he seemed to be “completely out of it” but thought it was because he was known to take three times the number of sleeping pills he was prescribed.
She was annoyed at him for scaring her and asked him why he was ignoring her calls, the court heard.
As she phoned her friend outside to say that her partner was okay, Dr Manning walked past her and into the bedroom where he took a bottle from the bedside cabinet.
Ms Routledge saw him put something into his mouth and crunch it as he walked back into the living room towards her. Minutes later, he slumped against the wall and began to choke and gasp for air.
She tried desperately to resuscitate him after calling for an ambulance but he was pronounced dead at Arrowe Park Hospital at 10.50am.
Police later found suicide notes written in Dr Manning’s handwriting, and scientists discovered that the three inch-long bottle taken from the cabinet had contained a fatal cyanide salt, which kills by depriving cells of oxygen.
Wirral Coroner Christopher Johnson ordered that no post mortem be carried out to prevent the consumed chemical being harmful to others.
He said that the circumstances leading to the Suffolk-born doctor’s death proved that he had expertise in the field of poisons and therefore was well aware of the consequences of his actions.
But police were unable to establish where Dr Manning had accessed the cyanide.
Mr Johnson, who ruled that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning, said: “I believe it was the intention of the deceased to harm himself. His profession, in my opinion, made him completely aware of his actions and the consequences.
“I am satisfied that Dr Manning intended to, and did take his own life and I therefore record a verdict that he did kill himself.”