Heroic efforts failed to save life of Exeter man

Aerial view of Exeter
Aerial view of Exeter in summer day, UK -Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto

The heroic efforts of police and members of the public who tried to save a much-loved suicidal Exeter man have been commended by his family during an inquest into his death. Ben Cooper, a 40-year-old regional sales manager, tragically intentionally fell from Tamar Bridge in Plymouth on Saturday, November 5, at around 11am and suffered unsurvivable injuries.

An inquest at Exeter Coroner's Court today, May 10, heard written statements from his wife and those who were at the scene on the day. His wife described Mr Cooper, who attended Exeter College after leaving school, as being someone whose family was very important to, as was providing for his family.

She recalled how they enjoyed many annual holidays as a couple and then with their children. The inquest heard he had not previously suffered with his mental health but had become distressed the day before his death after he was questioned by police.

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Reading extracts from her statement, assistant coroner Nicholas Lane said: "She notes something had happened the previous day that turned his life upside down and they knew as a family they needed to be strong and he would get through it. He was quite withdrawn and sad and not his normal self, which was understandable, and had not slept much that night."

She told how she had last seen him alive on the morning of November 5, when he had said he wanted time to himself. She recalled taking her children out as she did not believe he would harm himself and he told her his plan was to go to the shops.

However, he instead drove from their home in Exeter to Plymouth. Police were called to Tamar Bridge at around 10.45am following a report that a man was in a suicidal state. In police evidence, it was stated some members of the public and officers kept speaking to Mr Cooper to talk him down from the edge of the bridge.

Despite their best efforts, they were not successful. Goodbye notes were later found addressed to his family. The cause of his death was confirmed as multiple injuries.

Police stated that he had been questioned by a police officer concerning 'alleged behaviour' the previous day. Afterwards he was seen by a mental health professional who reported he had been suffering from a 'stress reaction' but had not disclosed any suicidal thoughts or intentions. He was deemed to not require any further mental health involvement at that stage.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr Lane said: "When questioned by police, it brought about an acute stress reaction in Ben... Prior to that everything was going fine in Ben's life. He had a family life in Exeter with children and a good job."

He continued: "It seems very clear, given the chronology and notes left in his car and at home, that very sadly Ben did intend to end his life when he travelled from Exeter to Plymouth and fell from the bridge."

He added: "It is important to note people are routinely asked to answer questions related to where police become involved. Unfortunately, it triggered Ben to have an acute stress reaction to those events."

Mr Cooper's mum told the coroner she and her family would like to express their appreciation to all those who tried to help him on the day. She said: "We would like to say thank you for trying to talk him down."