Ex-Royal Navy commander from Clevedon deliberately hanged himself, coroner concludes

Commander Chris Smith died on January 19.

Commander Chris Smith died on January 19. - Credit: Archant

A former Royal Navy commander from Clevedon may have hanged himself in a flat in Bristol because personal and financial issues were ‘preying on his mind’, a coroner has concluded today (Tuesday).

The coronor concluded Mrs Furneaux's death was an unlawful killing.

The coronor concluded Mrs Furneaux's death was an unlawful killing. - Credit: Archant

Commander Chris Smith was found dead on January 19, but his son Shaun told the inquest his father would only have taken his life, if he saw it was his only way out.

Avon Coroner’s Court, in Flax Bourton, was told police forced down the door after a call from his family who were worried when he failed to pick up his daughter.

Cdr Smith’s wife Sarah said her husband struggled ‘on and off with bouts of depression stemming from emotional issues in his life’.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1997 as a weapons engineer officer where he worked on several warships and was deployed to the Gulf in 2007. He worked in America for three years, where his family joined him, and returned to the UK in December 2016 to work at the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) base in Abbey Wood.


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A report from the MoD confirmed Cdr Smith had ‘difficulties adjusting to family life’ and went through a period of ‘domestic and marital instability’.

His colleagues also suggested he expressed concerns about the financial costs of keeping his racing yacht.

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Cdr Smith spent the weekend before he died with his parents John and Anthea and was described as being ‘in a good mood, meeting with friends and family’.

He left them for a meeting with the Royal Navy and his accountant.

His father John however said: “He was at the peak of a brilliant engineering career. Why would he have thrown it all away?

“During his naval career he worked with the intelligence service abroad and home. I will never believe he committed suicide.

“Other possibilities should be seriously considered.”

Cdr Smith’s son Shaun told the inquest: “I will miss his sense of humour and fun, his determination to strive for excellence and his sheer outlandishness.

“He had been down over the last few months due to recent personal issues.

“He had so many stresses and pressures through life, which had increased in the past few months and I believe it evidently became too much to bear.

“My father wouldn’t have taken his own life as an easy way out – he would have believed it was his only way out.”

Assistant coroner Terence Moore concluded the cause of Cdr Smith’s death was suicide.

He added: “The information from family is that he was a very driven individual who pushed himself, who had been a little down over the last few months.

“There are issues regarding marital problems, finances, and a wait for a hand operation which may have been preying on his mind.

“The fact the flat was locked, he was on his own... shows an intention, so I can be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the correct conclusion is suicide.”

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