Suicide student did 'trial run' on pet cat

A SHEFFIELD student who killed himself with gas used to fill party balloons carried out a trial run on his cat first, an inquest heard.

Adrian Clark told his GP he was thinking of suicide and had tried gassing his cat with helium but decided he "wouldn't want to go that way" after watching his pet go "berserk".

Just weeks later police broke into the mature student's home after neighbours became concerned and found his badly decomposed body.

Officers found cylinders of helium from a balloon party pack nearby. A note dated three weeks earlier was found in the 39-year-old's wallet instructing whoever found him to look after his cats.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Clark, of Freston Road South on the Manor, had died from asphyxiation due to inhaling helium.

GP Debbie Dennehy said the Hallam University student, who had a history of chronic depression, lived alone and was taking anti-depressants and receiving counselling and therapy from both psychologists and psychiatrists.

Dr Dennehy said Mr Clark was an "extremely intelligent man" who had visited the surgery just a few weeks before his death and told her he was depressed because he had fallen behind with his studies.

She said: "He said he had thoughts of suicide and he was going to gas himself with helium and that he had some at home.

"I asked him if he would do it and he said 'no'.

"He said he had attempted it on his cat which went berserk but recovered and he wouldn't want to go that way."

Adrian, who was from Poole in Devon, had come to Sheffield to study Biomedical Science. He was getting help from student mentor Gail Bower.

She told the inquest he was "very polite, a real gentleman but with no self-esteem and low confidence with no self-worth".

Just days before his death he had emailed Gail at home late one evening. The email gave the name and telephone number of his GP and asked her to ensure his cats were looked after if anything happened to him.

She said the email came "like a bolt from the blue " and added: "I was quite alarmed. I felt he was asking for my help and was suggesting self-harm."

Gail reported the matter to her line manager Nicola Hobson and the university's Student Mental Health co-ordinator Catherine Cowell.

They tried to contact Mr Clark by email but were unsuccessful. Coroner Chris Dorries asked if they had considered calling Mr Clark's GP.

Catherine told him there was no protocol in place to enable them to do so without a student's consent.

Recording a verdict that Mr Clark took his own life, Mr Dorries said university staff had been placed in a very difficult situation because there was no protocol instructing them in such circumstances.

He added that he would write to the university's vice chancellor to urge one to be put in place.