‘Caring and protective’ Yorkshire father took his own life after mental health battle, inquest finds

An inquest has found that a Yorkshire father who went missing before his body was discovered took his own life after struggling with his mental health.

Ben Whittington's family spoke at his inquest, telling assistant coroner Stephen Ecclestone of their "shock" over his death, and said that there had been "no indication" that he had been struggling so much.

The inquest heard Ben, a 26-year-old joiner who lived in Gleadless, was reported missing on July 5 this year, after he failed to attend work and had not been in contact with friends or family.

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Following an appeal on social media and a police investigation, Ben’s Volkswagen Transporter was spotted in a car park near Ladybower reservoir on July 6.

Ben Whittington

A search was launched, involving police, helicopters, the fire and rescue service and mountain rescue.

On the afternoon of July 6, Ben’s body was found. The inquest heard he was found hanged and police officers said they believed nobody else was involved in the incident.

Speaking at the inquest, Sergeant Simon Pickering, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “It was one of the largest multi-agency call-outs we have had for some time.

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“The family were brilliant at engaging with us and that is appreciated. I have never seen so many family and friends turn up to a scene to help with a search. So much passionate love for Ben is clearly there.”

The inquest heard that Ben had struggled with feeling depressed and anxious, and that he was prescribed anti-depressants by his GP. However, he felt these did not agree with him and stopped taking them, and no alternative was prescribed. His GP said he had shown no signs of wanting to harm himself in any way.

Paul James, of Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, informed the inquest that Ben was not known to their services and Mr Ecclestone told the inquest there was no further evidence of him receiving treatment for mental health concerns.

Ben’s older sister Kerry told the inquest that he was a ‘loving, caring and protective’ father, son, fiancé and brother, and that the family were in ‘complete shock’ following his death.

“Ben thought the world of his fiancé Jesmin and his son Oscar, who was 18-months-old. He seemed very positive, and we were messaging just days before planning when we would all next meet up,” she said.

“We picked up on a few cues from talking to our mum – he had lost weight and was not always making eye contact – but he seemed to be looking forward to his future with us.

“He was doing lots of positive things even the day before, when he went to a play area with his son. He seemed to be getting on with life and his death was very unexpected.

“I think he kept everything to himself as much as he could and tried to deal with it and it got too much. He was trying to protect us as he didn’t want to upset anybody.”

Mr Ecclestone concluded that Ben died by suicide.

He added: “I want to offer my profound condolences to the family. I have no doubt that Ben was loved by you all and I can see the profound sense of loss that you feel.”

If you need to talk, you can call the Samaritans, which is there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for free on 116 123, or visit samaritans.org.