If you have a story call our newsdesk on 01722 426511 or email us. To advertise call 01722 426500.
Porton scientist killed himself by drinking antifreeze
A PORTON Down scientist who killed himself after being accused of bullying a colleague had shown signs of undiagnosed autism, an inquest heard.
Wiltshire coroner David Ridley has called for more welfare support for civil servants showing signs of the condition following the death of Dr Richard Holmes in April last year.
An inquest held at Salisbury Coroners Court on Tuesday heard that Dr Holmes, who had worked for Dstl for 26 years, went missing from his home in Bishopdown Farm two days before his body was found on land of London Road, near Ford on April 13. The 48-year-old, who was married with a teenage daughter, had died after drinking a bottle of antifreeze.
He had been suspended from Dstl towards the end of 2011, while the allegation of bullying was investigated. Many of the witnesses giving evidence at the inquest said Dr Holmes showed signs of autism, despite never being formally diagnosed.
Dr Holmes’ widow, Sue, told the hearing he “lived and breathed his work”, and he often worked 50 to 60 hours per week.
She said the day before he went missing, he had appeared “almost manic”.
Before the bullying allegation was made, he had complained that some of his colleagues were not performing as well as they should have been.
“He gave 110 per cent and expected everyone else to,” said Mrs Holmes. She said her husband became “very, very frustrated” with not being able to work while the investigation was ongoing and was concerned his projects were falling behind schedule.
Mrs Holmes, who also works for Dstl, said: “He felt as though his hands had been cut off.”
Dr Holmes was charged with gross misconduct in January 2012 and he resigned the day before his disciplinary hearing so that he could leave the company “with his head held high”.
He had planned to continue working on the same projects with contractors in the USA and his wife said he was positive about the situation in the weeks before his death. He had also begun taking medication for depression.
Mr Ridley, coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said: “It’s not for me to make recommendations but I am concerned there are potentially – not just in Dstl, in any government department in the public sector – people who are undiagnosed (with autism), and whether or not it is something that those bodies ought to be reviewing.”
He called for “reasonable adjustments to be made” for those with perceived autism when they are going through similar disciplinary hearings.
Comments are closed on this article.