Retired teacher took his own life ahead of abuse court case, inquest hears

Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A retired teacher facing historic abuse allegations at a London school took his own life after being formally charged with the offences, an inquest has heard.

Great Yarmouth-born Timothy John Harbord, 67, died at his home in Waunci Crescent, Gorleston, on July 26, 2020 - just weeks before he was due to appear in court on August 11.

An inquest into his death held at Norfolk Coroner's Court on January 18 heard how Mr Harbord had been plagued by anxiety since retiring to Gorleston when he found out he was again being investigated for assault, having been cleared previously.

The cause of death was hanging.

Mr Harbord's friends confirmed he received notification of the charges against him in May, which ruined his mental health.

The court heard that although Mr Harbord expressed suicidal thoughts with multiple health professionals in the run up to his death, he had no specific disorder to treat and was always at risk of suicide as long as the assault investigation continued.

A friend of more than 50 years, Tony Mallion, said: "The Times took secret pictures of him outside his front door, and he became very paranoid. He couldn't relax."

Mr Mallion added that Mr Harbord was a caring Christian man who was devoted to the church, and as a single bachelor struggled throughout the pandemic when he wasn't able to meet friends.

On July 18, 2020, Mr Harbord unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life, but admitted himself to the James Paget Hospital. 

Paul Smith, another long-time friend, said Mr Harbord came to his house the day after, saying he was ashamed but glad to be alive.

However, he admitted doing "terrible things" and appeared to make a confession to his friend.

Mr Harbord told Mr Smith he did "not want to be in the papers", and became committed to taking his own life after speaking with his solicitor.

Yvonne Blake, coroner for the area, concluded that Mr Harbord fully understood the intent of his actions.

She said: "I have absolutely no doubt that as a result of his impending court meeting he was under a profound amount of stress.

"He had had all this before in an earlier period and had been cleared. But it came back to him in Gorleston, and from then on he lived in fear."

If you need help or support, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 both 24/7. 

Alternatively download the Stay Alive app, which is backed by Suffolk User Forum, if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else.