East Harling pig farmer Stephen Brown committed suicide

A well-loved farmer who shot himself in the head took his own life while in a distressed state of mind, an inquest heard.

The body of Stephen Brown, 52, of Harling Farm, Eccles Road, East Harling, was discovered at around 7.30am on February 14.

At an inquest into the death, Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong said he understood Mr Brown had received 'abusive and malicious' calls following media coverage of an investigation by the RSPCA.

Video footage by animal rights group Animal Equality had emerged days earlier of pigs allegedly being kicked, slapped and beaten with iron bars.

Mr Brown's father, Michael Brown, said he had stayed with him the night before because of this and added: 'He was obviously extremely upset about the prosecution and though he wasn't implicated in what was going on he felt it was his responsibility.'

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He went on: 'We got on extremely well together. Most of the decisions were made jointly, and past retirement I left a lot of things to him and he was happy with that. He was a very loving man and good family man.'

He said he had become worried about his son on the morning of his death after noticing his Range Rover had gone and enlisted the help of a friend to carry out a search of the farm.

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Mr Brown's body was found outside his vehicle on a track adjacent to Quidenham Road, East Harling, with a shotgun beside him. A note had been left with photos of family and friends on the passenger seat of his car.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. A post-mortem examination found the cause of death was a shotgun wound to the head.

Mr Armstrong recorded a verdict of 'suicide while in a disturbed state of mind.'

He added: 'I understand there had been an investigation at his farm by the RSPCA into matters which are in no way the subject of this inquest.

'I simply note this investigation took place and I note from evidence given by his father that Stephen was extremely distressed by recent events.

'It's clear from all the evidence at the scene and the investigation by police that Stephen had shot himself and that his death would have been instantaneous.'

Speaking afterwards, Mr Brown said: 'We've lost a very loving son and his children have lost a very loving father.'

Those who knew Mr Brown have spoken about the gentle man whose family had farmed in East Harling for generations.

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