Man found hanged at Sopwell House in St Albans, Paul Alford, was in 'severe financial situation', inquest hears

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Sopwell House. Sopwell House.

A husband under “severe financial” pressure paid his room bill and placed a “do not disturb” sign on his room door hours before hanging himself in a St Albans hotel, an inquest heard.

Paul Alford was discovered by a cleaner at the four-star hotel, Sopwell House, at about 1pm on June 20 last year.

At a inquest today it was ruled that the 64-year-old, whose usual address is listed as Drummoyne Avenue, Drummoyne, Australia, died of asphyxiation.

Coroner Edward Thomas told said that Mr Alford’s death would have been “almost instantaneous”.

Post-mortem results showed there were no signs of violence other than the injuries around the neck and no substances in his body.

The inquest was told how Mr Alford had checked into room eight of the Cottonmill Lane hotel on June 18, initially booking on staying for one night.

However, he extended his stay for an extra night, paying for the booking in advance.

After Mr Alford had appeared by the 11am checkout time, hotel cleaning staff approached his room.

Mr Thomas told the inquest how the house keeper did not get a reply when she knocked on the door, which had a “do not disturb” sign on, and so she let herself in with her key card.

When she received no response after calling out to him, the cleaner went speak to the house staff who went in with her to the room, which was in a row of cottages separate from the main complex.

Police reports stated that the property looked secure and that there were no signs of damage.

The day before his body was found, Mr Alford spent the day with a business colleague, who noted that he seemed “perfectly normal”.

The inquest heard how Mr Alford’s phone revealed supportive messages from his wife, Louise, who was at Hertfordshire Coroners’ Court today.

Mr Thomas said: “I think from reading the text it was quite clear you were reassuring him that you care for him deeply and wanted him to be clear to you about the situation he was in which was a severe financial situation.”

Mr Thomas told the inquest that he believed it was Mr Alford’s intention to take his own life.

He said: “The manner of his death was such that he would know there was only one inevitable consequence and that would be that he would die.”

He added: “At that stage it was the only way he saw out of the large financial difficulties through probably no fault of his own.”

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