Former vicar, Reverend David Brentnall, hit by train at Harpenden station 'intended to end his life', rules coroner

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Reverend Brentnall was a vicar at St Peter's Church for 12 years. Reverend Brentnall was a vicar at St Peter's Church for 12 years.

A former vicar with a history of depression seemed “sad and despondent” hours before he jumped in front of a train, an inquest heard today.

Reverend David Brentnall, of Normandy Road, St Albans, died from multiple injuries after stepping in front of a high-speed service at Harpenden railway station on Monday, January 21.

Hatfield Coroners Court heard today how the 59-year-old had a “bad year” in 2012 and had sought medical advice for depression.

In January, he moved in with his on and off partner, Katja Strahl-Draper - but six days before his death he had what she described as a “manic” episode.

She said: “He was convinced the kettle was broken.

“He ran around town for two hours trying to find another one - I was trying to call him but he left his phone at home. He came home sweating because he couldn’t find a replacement.

“He was usually an energetic man, but when he was feeling low he could become manic. He did perceive this as overreacting and it was different to the way he had been in the days before that.”

She put his behaviour down to stress at his charity shop job and as a result, Reverend Brentnall had planned to reduce his hours to just three days a week.

Mrs Strahl-Draper added: "On the day of his death we went for a walk at around 1pm but he seemed sad and despondent. We had planned to meet for dinner that evening to talk about our relationship."

Reverend Brentnall, who was a vicar at St Peter's Church for 12 years, registered as a new patient at Davenport House Surgery, Bowers Lane, in January 2012.

It was thought he was suffering from a panic disorder as his symptoms included waking up with a fast heartbeat and sweating and he was referred for cognitive behaviour therapy.

But after a telephone consultation with a nurse he said he was feeling “much better” and declined therapy.

Dr Kirsten Lamb took over his case in April 2013 and began monitoring his progress throughout the year.

She said: “In September I saw him and he was talking about positive things in his life. He agreed to take a prescription but he later said he did not want to take the medication as he was worried about side effects.

“I faxed a psychotherapy referral but there is nothing in my records about it.

“In October he reported feeling better, although he had lost his appetite and concentration.”

Gary Matthias, from the British Transport Police, confirmed the driver of the train reported seeing a man in a red jacket on platform three on the day of Mr Brentnall’s death.

He crouched down and jumped in front of the platform and placed his hands on his stomach - but it was too late to apply the brakes.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Coroner Alison Greaves said: “He jumped on the track of the railway and stood motionless until he was struck by the train. At the time, he had formed the intention to end his life.”

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