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Former news editor 'had intended to take his life'

A former journalist who was found dead in the River Avon had been suffering from depression, an inquest was told.

Tony Donnelly joined the Evesham Journal as news editor in 2005, and left the paper in December 2008 in what the police described as “acrimonious” circumstances.

The 58-year-old, a former chief reporter of the Nottingham Evening Post, was found dead last September after being missing for several days.

An inquest into his death was told Mr Donnelly had become depressed after being unable to find alternative employment and was struggling to pay his rent.

Detective Sergeant Jim Bayliss said in a statement that he believed Mr Donnelly had been made redundant from the Journal following his refusal to dismiss other members of staff.

He described Mr Donnelly’s departure as “acrimonious” and said he was in the process of taking action for unfair dismissal.

However after the inquest, Journal editor John Murphy said: “Tony Donnelly was not made redundant and was not asked to make others redundant.

“He subsequently did try to take a case to an industrial tribunal but was unsuccessful and withdrew his application, therefore ending that process some time before he was found dead. His relatives said at his funeral that his Evesham years were some of his happiest and we prefer to remember him in that way.”

The hearing in Stourport-on-Severn heard that Mr Donnelly had been issued with an eviction notice from his landlord last August.

On 20 September he made a phone call to his close friend Ron Carrington and said he wanted to take his own life.

In a statement, Mr Carrington said Mr Donnelly said: “I’ve got a handful of pills, I’m going to finish the bottle and then that’s it, I’m finished.”

The police were contacted and they began searching for Mr Donnelly, who was last seen walking by the river at about 4pm later that day.

The following day, 21 September, a bag was found behind Raphael’s Restaurant on Boat Lane which contained his wallet and mobile phone. His body was found floating in the river by a member of the public three days later.

A post mortem examination revealed Mr Donnelly had no traces of drugs in his body and no underlying health problems. He had 194mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, more than twice the legal limit for driving.

Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams said he accepted Mr Donnelly had intended to take his own life, but recorded an open verdict.

After the inquest Mr Murphy added: “This is a sad end to the life of a well-respected local journalist.”


Liz Carnell (12/01/2010 10:22:57)
The very sad thing about this is that the Journalists Charity (Newspaper Press Fund) exists to help colleagues in these sort of circumstances, where they are finding it hard to meet their bills. Would knowing this have made a difference to Tony? It might have done.

mervyn collins (19/01/2010 12:02:55)
It’s just a shame that Mr Murphy didn’t explain the reasons behind Tony’s departure from the Journal!!