Depressed man died in cliff fall

A DEPRESSED man fell 100ft to his death at a coastal beauty spot after reaching into his rucksack for a drink.

Andrew Downs sparked a frantic police search after he rang the emergency services during the early hours of April 11, threatening to harm himself.

An inquest at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard how the 42-year-old from South Shields rang numerous times, stating various locations, but failed to wait for help.

At 5.30am, Pc Sean Mootlen and his colleague Pc Graham Conaty found him near Souter Lighthouse in Coast Road, Whitburn.

Pc Mootlen said: “He gave chase and went over the barrier and sat on the edge of the cliff before climbing down a little.”

The two officers then approached Mr Downs, who was on anti-depressants and had drug and alcohol problems, and began to talk to him.

Pc Mootlen said: “He moved back up the cliff a bit and faced us, he seemed thankful someone was there.

“He went to get a drink out of his rucksack, he took his right hand off the cliff and his footing gave way - then we lost sight of him.”

Pathologist Gemma Kemp said Mr Downs’s death was due to chest injuries.

Verdict: Accidental

Toxicology reports showed he was one and a half times over the legal driving limit for alcohol and there were also traces of amphetamines in his blood.

Coroner Terence Carney described Mr Downs, from South Shields, as an “enigma”.

He said: “For some time he had problems in his life and had given into the misuse of alcohol. But he was a bit of an enigma and although he was addicted in some ways, he did engage with the services trying to help him - he was responding quite well.”

He added: “I’m confident this was not a man who was determined on that night to kill himself. Yes he wanted to draw attention to his plight - but not kill himself.”