A man who stood in front of a train travelling at about 55mph on a railway crossing outside Norwich was suffering from a depressive illness, an inquest heard.

Bernard Neave, 59, from Oak Apple Drive, Dereham, was struck by the 2.06pm Norwich to Lowestoft service at Girlings Lane crossing, Thorpe St Andrew, on September 1.

Police and paramedics were called just after 2.15pm but Mr Neave, known as Bernie, a retired civil engineer, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Yesterday'sNorwich inquest was told that Mr Neave had suffered from depression since his teenage years, but his illness had become worse in the last few years.

His wife Heather told the inquest that she met her husband for lunch on September 1. Unknown to her, he then drove to the railway crossing, parked his car, and waited for the next train.

A jury returned a verdict of suicide while suffering from a depressive illness, and Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said: 'Depression is an illness and, sadly, Bernie was never able to climb out of that dark hole he was in, despite the love of his wife and the support of his doctor.'

Mrs Neave paid tribute to her husband as a 'kind and gentle person with a wicked sense of humour.'

She said: 'He was a very talented man who enjoyed composing music, photography and fishing.'

'But he had very low self-esteem and hated the state he was in. He just felt that his life was over.

'He tried to throttle himself in August and had taken an overdose of tablets before.

'On August 21 one of our two cats, which we had had for years, was put to sleep. It was very upsetting for both of us and I think that might have been the trigger for him. When our cat was put to sleep he asked if he could be put to sleep as well.

'And then on August 30 he told me that, if he was physically able, he would drive to a crossing and stand in front of a train.'

Mr Armstrong read a statement made by train driver Martin Penny, in which he said he saw a man 'casually walk onto the crossing. 'He stood there and looked towards me. I braked and sounded the horn but the train collided with him. His actions appeared deliberate.'

The cause of death was given as multiple injuries.