Chivenor Royal Marine Samuel Cunningham killed himself after relationship ended
A ROYAL Marine who hanged himself in barracks at Chivenor after breaking up with his girlfriend had been to see a doctor with concerns about his mental health just a day earlier, an inquest has heard.
Samuel Cunningham, 32, was found hanged in his room in Deering block at Chivenor on February 9 last year.
Marine Cunningham, who was a mechanic posted to the Commando Logistic Regiment, was found by his friend Marine Thomas Fox and his other flatmates, having hung himself with a rope.
Coroner John Tomalin read from a statement by Cunningham’s partner Emma Pope, in which she said the relationship had broken down.
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The pair had moved into a rented house in Burnley, where Cunningham was born, but Miss Pope had moved out when she failed to find a job and Cunningham was posted to North Devon in January 2012.
Mr Tomalin said: “She says her career plan had fallen through and that she needed space.”
The pair had a discussion about ending the relationship and decided it was for the best.
The pair continued to speak on the phone and exchange texts, but over the weekend of February 4 and 5 Cunningham told Miss Pope he wasn’t taking the break up well and was unhappy.
“He said he felt depressed,” said Mr Tomalin, “and hadn’t stopped crying. Miss Pope told him not to do anything hasty and to speak to a GP.”
But Cunningham seemed unwilling to do so and told her he feared doing so could mean he would be medically discharged.
However, after some more persuasion he saw Dr James Fresch, from Caen Medical Centre, on February 8.
Dr Fresch told the inquest: “He wanted to seek counselling for what he thought were factors of his personality which had affected his relationship. He explained he had a previous relationship break down where his partner had been given half of the house they owned. He said he was cautious and self-protective as a result.”
He also said Cunningham had told him he was “feeling low”.
Dr Fresch had decided Cunningham posed no risk of self harm or suicide because he was smartly presented and seemed to be “coping well”.
He also said because Cunningham had mentioned his “next relationship” he did not expect him to harm himself.
“He was making plans for the future which makes it seem less likely he’d harm himself,” he said.
The pair agreed Cunningham should refer himself to the camp welfare officer for counselling, which Dr Fresch said Cunningham had seemed happy with.
But just 24 hours later Cunningham was dead, after texting Miss Pope and telling her his trip to the doctor was a “complete waste of time” and saying he would have to “do my own thing”.
His death came as a surprise to marine Thomas Fox, one of Cunningham’s closest friends, who also said he had been coping well with the breakdown of his relationship.
Marine Fox, who trained alongside Cunningham, said he was aware of Cunningham’s feelings but that he appeared to have got over them.
“He was really cut up,” he said. “I was surprised because a few weeks earlier he told me he was unhappy in the relationship. But when Emma ended it, it hit him hard.”
Marine Fox said Cunningham had broken down and cried in front of him shortly after the break up, and the pair had talked before he decided to give Cunningham some space.
Marine Fox stayed with Cunningham that weekend “to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid”.
By the end of the weekend, Marine Fox said, Cunningham “seemed fine”.
“We spent time drinking and having a laugh like we used to and I thought he’d got over it,” Marine Fox told the inquest.
After speaking to Cunningham on February 7 he didn’t see him again until he found him hanged in his room.
The discovery came as a shock to Marine Fox, who described Cunningham as “a favourite in the troop”.
“He was older than the rest,” he said, “you sort of wanted to look up to him as a father figure. Then you realised he was probably more immature than yourself in many ways. He was one of the greatest chaps I ever met.”
Having heard all the evidence Coroner Tomalin ruled Cunningham had committed suicide.
He said: “There is extremely strong evidence to suggest marine Cunningham embarked on a course of actions designed to end his life. There is no evidence of suspicious circumstances, none to suggest he had been drinking or had taken any medication or drugs.”
Mr Tomalin offered his condolences to Cunningham’s family, as did Alan Styles, from Royal Navy Command’s inquest support section.
“On behalf of the Naval Service I’d like to express our sympathies to Marine Sam Cunningham’s friends and family,” he said.