Man plunged to death from cliffs – days after being escorted home by police from same spot

The cliff tragedy at Marsden
The cliff tragedy at Marsden
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A man suffering acute depression plunged to his death from seaside cliffs – days after twice being spotted peering over the edge by worried passers-by.

Ronald Oliver persuaded police he was only watching the tide after they were alerted to him standing on the wrong side of metal barriers on two nights near the Marsden Grotto pub, South Shields, an inquest heard.

During the last incident, just four days before the Sunderland supermarket worker’s death, he refused an offer of additional support, including seeing mental health experts. Police even followed his car home to ensure his safety.

But at around 5.30am on Thursday, March 2, emergency rescuers were again alerted – this time finding his body half way down the cliff at the same spot.

Det Sgt Victoria Ford-Stubbs, of Northumbria Police told the South Tyneside inquest that officers were called to the cliffs at 10.13pm on Sunday, February 19, and again at 12.40am on Sunday, February 26.

She said both times, Mr Oliver claimed he had gone to look at tides, and was coherent and responsive to questioning.

The inquest heard Mr Oliver, 57, of Dickens Street, Southwick, Sunderland, had not complained of being depressed or sought professional help.

However, colleagues at the Asda distribution centre in Washington where he worked, and at the Remploy employment agency, had seen indications of physical decline. He is believed to have feared the possibility of becoming wheelchair-bound.

The inquest was told that would have been the long-term result of leg injuries from a serious accident in 1986 which had left him temporarily paralysed but from which he had recovered.

His sister, Gillian Snowden, told the inquest that the week before his death he was very withdrawn and upset, adding: “He told me that he was very unhappy. He said, ‘I feel as if my life is not worth living’.

“I told him that I would do anything for him. I had no idea that was so low or depressed. I never, never in a million years thought that he would go out and kill himself.”

South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney said police had acted properly towards Mr Oliver.

In a narrative verdict, he said Mr Oliver’s life had ended during a period of acute depression.