Retired engineer took his own life, inquest concludes

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An internationally renowned consultant civil engineer died after injuring himself and compromising the gas supply at his home in Bovey Tracey.

John Dunnicliff was a geotechnical instrumentation consultant who wrote and edited hundreds of articles and travelled the world holding workshops.

An inquest jury at Plymouth Coroner’s Court heard that the 86-year-old was found at his home by his wife Mary having suffered multiple self-inflicted wounds.

He had also altered the gas supply at his home on the day in October 2020.

He was rushed to Plymouth’s main hospital where he died 17 days later.

The jury was told that John died from a cardiac arrest, self-stabbing and depression following a recent stroke. He was also losing his eyesight and although retired, was worried he would not work again.

The senior Plymouth and South Devon coroner Ian Arrow was told he was exhausted by the lack of sleep and was becoming distressed.

The inquest jury heard his son had committed suicide years ago and John was ‘highly pragmatic dealing with his health problems and had a very clear view of his health’. The jury heard he was a frail elderly man with significant health issues and had no hope of recovery after he injured himself.

Police said a number of items were found at the scene and there were no suspicious circumstances.

A note was found which gave reasons for his suicide including that he was unhappy with his deteriorating eyesight.

The jury recorded a suicide conclusion and the coroner said: ‘It’s a very sad story.’

John graduated with degrees from Oxford University in engineering, then from Harvard University with a master’s degree in soil mechanics and his career began as a soil engineer in London and Hong Kong before moving to America in 1968, returning to the UK in 1998.



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