A retired City banker took his own life after struggling with depression, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard.

Mark Nicholls, who retired as chairman of investment firm Rathbones in March 2020, left a ‘suicide note’ for his wife Catherine on February 24 in which he referred to going to ‘the weir’ on the River Thames near their home in Little Wittenham.

The 72-year-old’s body was found by canoeists nine miles downstream at Cleeve Lock, near Goring, exactly a month later. Mr Nicholls was identified from his dental records.

In a statement made nine days after she reported her husband missing, Mrs Nicholls, 71, said he had ‘dreaded his retirement and was questioning what he was going to do with his time’.

An inquest into his death was told on Wednesday afternoon that Mr Nicholls had been admitted as an inpatient to the Nightingale Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in London, on April 11, 2021. He had previously been admitted to the same hospital in 1995 after announcing his intention to end his life.

He was ‘initially agitated’ following his admission last spring, consultant psychiatrist Dr Sean Cross said.

Summarising the doctor’s statement, senior coroner Darren Salter said: “Towards the end of his period of admission, there is a reference to Mr Nicholls [being] open to the fact he has had a very difficult time and a mental health disorder episode similar to the one he experienced in 1995/96. He is open to the fact this is the way anxiety and depression manifests in him.”

He was discharged on May 11 last year but continued to be seen by his psychiatrists and prescribed medication.

“The longevity of the illness was noted to be draining for him,” Mr Salter told the inquest.

Mrs Nicholls said in her statement that, prior to his disappearance, her husband had stopped taking his psychiatric medication. She said: “He doesn’t believe in them anymore.”

The last time she saw him was at 10.30pm on Wednesday, February 23, when he said he was going to bed.

The following morning, Mrs Nicholls was walking their dog on Wittenham Clumps. As she returned to the house at around 8am, she saw the light in his study was on and assumed he was using the room.

He was not in the study but had left a hand-written note in an A4 notebook on the desk.

Ms Nicholls said: “I knew straightaway what this letter was.” She thought he had written it with the intention of taking his own life and called 999 immediately. His keys, mobile phone and bank cards had been left in the house.

Police were called to Cleeve Lock on March 24 – exactly a month later – by off-duty lockkeeper Stephen Lambley. A man had knocked at his back door shortly after 11.30am, telling him there was what appeared to be a body in the river.

An investigation by Thames Valley Police confirmed there was no evidence of third party involvement or suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

The coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

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