Man who suffered homophobic abuse left note asking police to look after his cats before taking his own life

Eastgate House, Thorpe Road, where the Coroner's Court is situated in the ground floor. Picture: Den

Eastgate House, Thorpe Road, where the Coroner's Court is situated in the ground floor. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

After moving to Norwich to escape 'significant' homophobic abuse, Gareth Coombs took his own life having been threatened for testifying in court over a domestic abuse case, an inquest has heard.

The 34-year-old, who had been living at Shorncliffe Avenue for two years after moving from Essex, left notes to police asking them to look after his cats before taking a lethal cocktail of drugs.

He was found on February 17 of this year after his mother raised concerns for his welfare, Norfolk Coroner's Court heard.

She had received a letter from him that day explaining he intended to take his own life, and 'did not want to cause any embarrassment to the family'.

Mr Coombs, who had changed his surname from Heffron after disowning his father over a row, had seen Norwich as a 'fresh start', the court heard, and had given up taking cannabis.

T/Sgt Vicky Hebborn attended his address at 8.38pm on February 17 for a welfare check after his mother contacted police. 'The flat had been locked, apparently from within, and the address seemed secure in other ways,' she said. 'There was a letter taped to the fridge marked for the police to read. I believe the letter was similar to the content left to his mother. It was directions for looking after his animals, and said he had been intending to take his own life.'

GP Dr Alison Dow, of Prospect Medical Practice, said in a statement she had a long conversation with Mr Coombs on February 5.

Most Read

She had been aware he had suffered 'significant levels' of homophobic abuse while living in Essex, and complaints about heart problems while in Norwich were attributed to anxiety. 'He had high levels of stress after having had to appear in court as a witness,' she said. 'He had heard a neighbour beating up a partner in a neighbouring flat, and had reported it to the police.

'When he gave evidence he did so from behind a screen to conceal his identity, but he was identified and later had threatening meetings in the street. 'Police had given him a panic alarm to use and he was clearly quite scared. I was aware he was a very isolated man with no real friends or family to rely on for support. He had received lots of abuse in the community.'

Summing up, area coroner Yvonne Blake concluded Mr Coombs had taken his own life. 'I think Mr Coombs had prepared for his sad death in a very organised fashion, arranging for his pets to be taken care of and sending notes to police - aware he would be found,' she said.

'In the circumstances I believe he fully intended the consequences of his actions.'

• The Samaritans can be contacted by ringing 116 123, emailing or visiting

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter