Open verdict in inquest into death of popular Bridport musician

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: OPEN VERDICT: The Amazing Mr Smith OPEN VERDICT: The Amazing Mr Smith

A FAMILY say they will be asking questions over why a depressed Bridport man was prescribed a drug with links to suicide. The body of popular musician Derek Roger Smith was found at the foot of West Bay cliffs last December.

An inquest heard that the 65-year-old had a history of depression and had been suffering severe pain following dental surgery.

He was taking prescribed drugs and over-the-counter painkillers, his partner Annette Woolley said.

She told the inquest that Mr Smith confided in her he had been to the cliffs several times with the intention of committing suicide in the weeks leading up to his death.

She said she had been taking paroxetine – a drug used to treat depression – and this concerned her because of its links to suicidal thoughts.

On a visit to the GP, Mr Smith was told to stop taking the drug immediately, she said.

No evidence was presented to the inquest from any GP about the drugs Mr Smith had been taking.

Mrs Woolley told assistant coroner for Dorset Stephen Nicholls she wanted to know why.

The inquest heard that Mr Smith’s brother had worked on paroxetine during its development, and ‘even then’ the link to suicide was known. He said he was ‘questioning why someone who was obviously unbalanced was prescribed this particular medication.’ Although the inquest heard that Mr Smith had attended a mental health course earlier in the year, no further evidence was presented about his medical history or the drugs he had been given. Mrs Woolley described how she awoke on the morning of Sunday, December 8 to find Mr Smith missing. She drove to West Bay because of what he had told her about the attempts to take his own life.

Upon arrival, she saw an ambulance and a police car and told them she thought the body which had been discovered by a walker at the foot of East Cliff was Mr Smith.

A post mortem later found Mr Smith had suffered multiple injuries.

Recording an open verdict into the death, Mr Nicholls said: “One of the matters which the inquest needs to address is whether Mr Smith deliberately took his own life.

“For that conclusion to be recorded the evidence has to be such that the coroner is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.

“Having looked at the evidence in this case, I am going to return an open verdict because I am not satisfied on the evidence I have before me that Mr Smith intended to take his own life.”

Mr Smith was a well-known musician and comedian who went by the name of The Amazing Mr Smith.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Smith’s daughter Rosie said she would be making further enquiries as to why no evidence was presented about the drugs prescribed to her father.

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