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Inquest records open verdict on former editor killed by train

An inquest into the death of former Herts Advertiser and St Albans Review editor Don Smith has recorded an open verdict.

The former editor died 18 months ago after walking out of a psychiatric ward and later being struck by a train.

Coroner Edward Thomas declined to give a suicide verdict because no notes had been left and there was no proof of intention to kill himself.

Don stepped in front of a train at Stevenage Station at 10.30am on July 1, 2005, having left the ward at the Lister Hospital about an hour earlier.

  • Don at the Review
    offices in 1974
  • He was found to have withdrawn £100 from a bank account at 9.40am and purchased a return ticket from Stevenage to Hitchin at the station at about 10am.

    Train driver Mark Broad, who had to take four weeks off work to get over the shock, had been travelling southwards to London at 125 miles per hour when he spotted a man walking briskly across two sets of lines. He put on his brakes but it took a mile for him to stop at that speed.

    Don’s GP, Christine Ryecart, who had been consulted by him for problems with high blood pressure, insomnia and anxiety, described him as “very intelligent and well-informed about his medication”.

    Although there were no incidents of self-harm or evidence of being suicidal, he had a history of anxiety which had been treated with benzodiazepine drugs on which he became dependent.

    Cause of death was given as multiple traumatic injuries.

    Don had been founder editor of the St Albans Review from 1973 to 1978, when he became editor of the Herts Advertiser.

    In 1982 he moved to the Luton News, but was forced through ill health to retire early in 1992.

    He had begun his career on Hampstead and Highgate Express, where he worked his way up from junior reporter to deputy editor.