UNIVERSITY DEAN COMMITTED SUICIDE IN BEMBRIDGE CARAVAN USING ARGON GAS

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Father of 3 Christopher Robin James Southgate committed suicide by placing a plastic bag over his head and inhaling Argon gas whilst staying in a caravan in Bembridge last year, an inquest has today (Wednesday) heard.

As first reported by Island Echo, emergency services were called to Sandhills Holiday Park off Peacock Hill on 29th July after a suspicious note was discovered pinned to a caravan door. Police, paramedics and the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service all responded to the scene with holidaymakers looking on.

Today’s inquest heard how 52-year-old Christopher Southgate, a university lecturer, was discovered with a plastic bag over his head and tubing leading to an Argon gas cylinder. He was tied to a chair and his hands had been cable tied to the belt loops on his trousers. A post mortem concluded that Southgate, who held a doctorate, died as a result of asphyxia due to plastic bag suffocation and inhalation of Argon gas.

A total of 13 members of Dr Southgate’s friends and family gathered in the court room this afternoon to hear the details of how the discovery of his body came about. On the afternoon of Friday 29th July, caravan cleaner David Frimley went to clean caravan S28 as instructed. However, as he cautiously stepped into the unit he discovered a note pinned to an inside door which stated:

“Please only enter if you are Police or Ambulance. My sorry body lies the other side of this door. I’m sorry”

Frimley alerted the caravan park’s owner, who in turn contacted Police. Upon arrival officers found the inside door to the living area secured by string tied to a kitchen drawer. Using force to the gain entry, officers opened the door and were hit by a distinct odour. The assistance of the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service and the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service was requested due to the presence of Argon gas.

The owner of the caravan, James Robertson, had taken a Monday to Friday booking from Dr Southgate late on the evening of Sunday 24th July. Dr Southgate arrived the next day and was last known to be alive during the early hours of Tuesday morning when a neighbouring caravan’s occupants heard him return. Prior to this he was said to be ‘unhappy and serious’.

A selection of letters to loved ones were found inside the caravan by detectives investigating the death, including one to a Mr Colin Muffett. A statement made by Mr Muffett and read out during the inquest explained how Dr Southgate had been staying with him and his wife in the weeks leading up to the tragic death. Mr Muffett believed that his friend of nearly 15 years had gone to Brighton after accepting a new job having previously lost his employment as the Dean of the College of Sustainability Sciences and Humanities at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.

Southgate’s journey to Bembridge, where he enjoyed family holidays as a child, came just hours after being arrested and questioned by Police on suspicion of offences undisclosed to the court. His mobile phone was seized and he was released on bail, leaving him in a ‘fragile and tired’ state.

Details read out in the court room by DS Wikinson of Newport CID revealed Southgate’s intention to take his own life in the fact that 2 Argon gas cylinders had been purchased in Chorley, Lancashire and transported to the Island in a Ford Fiesta rented from Enterprise. He had no other possessions, only the clothes on his back.

Around 6 weeks before his death Christopher Southgate had travelled to Scotland in the intention of committing suicide, however he changed his mind. The troublesome time both emotionally and financially for the university lecturer came following the break down of his marriage. His wife, Rachel, discovered he was having an affair with a girl called Melissa. According to Mr Moffett, the woman was in fact a Filipino called Res.

Just an hour or so before the discovery of Dr Southgate’s body, Colin Muffet had reported him missing to Police having had no response to calls or texts for several days.

Concluding the inquest, Assistant Coroner for the Isle of Wight, John Matthews, said:

“The court has heard the harrowing circumstances relating to the death of Mr Christopher Robin James Southgate.

“I am driven by the evidence in this case first of all to the nature in which he had prepared himself for death. The fact the caravan was fully locked and secured, all the letters he left and the measures he took. There was a definite intention to commit suicide.

“He thought he was a complete failure having losing his job and becoming penniless with no prospects. He thought he had screwed up all of his relationship and his life, according to his letters.

“The fact so many of you are here now demonstrates in one respect that he attracted a lot of love. If only he was to know how deeply he was loved, he may have taken a different path”.

A verdict of suicide was recorded.

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