An ex-serviceman who became aggressive and disconnected from his family decided to take his own life, an inquest heard today.

Stephen Carter, 52, died on September 17 last year after hanging himself at his family home in Laburnum Grove, St Albans.

Mr Carter, who was born in Farnham, Surrey, described himself as a bad family man.

Both his parents and wife, Penelope, said something had changed inside him after serving as a combat medical technician during the first Gulf War.

When he returned from the war he began working in the prison service.

Hertfordshire senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said Mr Carter had been dealing with struggles at work, and although doctors noted in 2004 he had suicidal thoughts, these stopped once he was reinstated at work.

Mr Carter worked at HMP The Mount Prison in Bovingdon and made friends with another prison officer, Hitesh Dodhia.

The two eventually moved on to work in different prisons but kept in contact via Facebook and text message.

Last year, Mr Dodhia learnt of Mr Carter’s marriage breakdown and that his wife had asked for a divorce.

Mr Dodhia tried to meet up with him on a number of occasions to offer support.

He spoke of one time in his witness statement when Mr Carter said could not meet him because he had been sleeping in his car.

Mr Dodhia said: “He eventually came to see me, but he was quite agitated and hadn’t eaten or drunk.”

Mr Carter told his friend several times that he had made his wife and two children’s lives a misery.

Despite his marriage breakdown, Mr Carter continued to live in the family home in St Albans and moved jobs to be a highways manager in South Mimms.

On September 16 last year Mrs Carter returned home at around 7pm.

She saw that Mr Carter was in the garden shed, which was normal.

She then went to bed as usual. She woke up at around 4.45am the next day but saw the light was still on in the shed.

Worried, she decided to call the police.

When police arrived, they found Mr Carter hanged in the garden shed. He was pronounced dead.

Text messages were recovered from his mobile phone during the police investigation which showed that Mr Carter had texted his wife Penelope the evening before, at around 5pm.

He wrote: “I love you with all my heart. I can’t live without you”, and added, “I’m sorry for everything I did”.

She replied saying: “At least you’re getting the help now to sort you out.”

Mr Sullivan said the cause of Mr Carter’s death as asphyxiation and concluded he had committed suicide.