Helston father's suicide highlights pressure 'under which people struggle'

'A wonderful person who enriched the lives of everyone who knew him'

'A wonderful person who enriched the lives of everyone who knew him'

First published in Cornwall
Last updated

The family of a father who took his own life on the Lizard Peninsula say they hope his death will “highlight the pressures under which so many people struggle.”

Construction worker David Hawke-Treneer, who had been living in a caravan at Gillan in the weeks leading up to his death but also had a house in Helston, died from carbon monoxide poisoning, an inquest in Truro heard last week.

The 37-year-old was found on April 11 this year slumped in his red Toyota sports car, which had been parked on an out of the way woodland track on the Trelowarren Estate near Mawgan.

Evidence at the scene suggested he had attempted to set the car alight but it had failed to take hold.

However, the levels of carboxyhaemoglobin in his blood – 69 per cent – were enough to kill him and were sufficient for coroner Andrew Cox to rule the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mr Hawke-Treneer, the son of Helston town councillor Martine Knight, was found by a jogger early that morning, who noticed all the windows of the car were blacked out apart from the windscreen, through which he could see a “fog” that was not condensation.

Photographs of an ex girlfriend and Mr Hawke-Treneer’s young daughter lay on the ground outside the car.

In a statement read out at the inquest St Martin film maker Richard Stewart, who had been staying in a cabin he was building nearby, said: “I stopped and felt something wasn’t right. I looked into the passenger window and saw a hand and arm. I was so startled by this – totally taken aback. I hadn’t expected to see anything.”

Police officers who arrived in response to Mr Stewart’s 999 call smashed a window of the car, which had been locked from the inside, and he was confirmed dead at the scene.

Mr Hawke-Treneer had been reported missing the previous night and police officers searching his caravan found a number of suicide notes addressed to family members.

His brother Michael told the inquest that Mr Hawke-Treneer had been facing, financial, family and relationship strains.

“He moved into his caravan just to get away from everyone. He could select where he was and no one would find him,” added his brother.

As a result of coroner Mr Cox was satisfied that Mr Hawke-Treneer had intended to take his own life.

Speaking after the inquest his family described Mr Hawke-Treneer – who grew up in St Keverne before moving to the Helston area aged 13 – as “a wonderful person who enriched the lives of everyone who knew him,” who loved motorbikes and had a natural aptitude for sport.

They hoped his death would “highlight the pressures under which so many people struggle, without realising that there is help out there for them.”

They said: “If everyone made the effort to be more open-minded about depression and other mental health issues, and in so doing reduce the stigma which is still attached, then maybe it would be easier for sufferers to admit they need help.”

Mrs Knight added: “When he was small David had a T-shirt with the word ‘sunbeam’ on and, quite simply, that’s what he was – a little ray of sunshine. So whenever we see a sunbeam we’ll know it is David still smiling down on us.”

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