Depressed ex-vicar from St Albans jumped before train

David Brentnall

David Brentnall - Credit: Archant

A FORMER St Albans vicar battling with anxiety and depression jumped to his death in front of an oncoming train, an inquest heard this week.

The Rev David Brentnall, of Normandy Road, St Albans, took his own life when he was struck by a train at around 3.10pm as it passed through Harpenden station on Monday, January 21.

Speaking at the inquest on Tuesday his partner, Katja Strahl-Draper, described the 59-year-old, who had been vicar of St Peter’s Church for 12 years before leaving unexpectedly, as feeling “low and under pressure”.

She said there had been tensions within their relationship and recalled he had displayed some “manic” behaviour, including an episode the previous week where he convinced himself their kettle was broken and ran around town trying to find a replacement.

Ms Strahl-Draper went on to say he was due to stand down as manager of a charity shop adding: “He overall was quite stressed and I put that down to stresses at work. He was about to reduce his hours to take the stress off him.”

On the day of the incident they went for a walk and were due to meet later that evening for dinner to talk things over.

They had also had a telephone conversation during which he told her he was going back to work to drop off his keys.

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She explained: “The only unusual thing was that he hung up and he has never done that before. It has sort of come to an end but there might have been more but he put the phone down.”

The Rev Brentnall had been referred to mental health services after experiencing suicidal thoughts in 2011 which involved him walking to a rail station.

Dr Kirsten Lamb, who started seeing him in April last year, told the inquest he was suffering from moderate depression and mild anxiety.

She had prescribed him anti-depressants but he had not taken them as he was concerned about the side effects and had also been offered psychotherapy but chose not to attend the sessions.

Commenting on the last time she saw him Dr Lamb noted: “He was feeling very much better himself but that was a bit of a pattern with the consultations.”

Gary Mathias from the British Transport Police also spoke at the inquest to confirm the train driver had seen the Rev Brentnall on the tracks but despite attempts to brake the collision could not have been avoided.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Assistant Deputy Herts Coroner Alison Grief said: “Given all of these circumstances I am satisfied that at that immediate time he intended to jump into the tracks into the pathway of an oncoming train.”