The city’s retired finance chief took his own life in the River Thames, Oxford Coroner’s Court hears

A retired city banker has killed himself after battling 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 discussed going to the ‘spillway’ on the River Thames near their home in Little Wittenham.

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

In a statement issued nine days after reporting her husband missing, Ms Nicholls, 71, said he had been ‘dreading his retirement and wondering what he was going to do with his time’.

An inquest into his death was announced on Wednesday afternoon that Mr Nicholls had been admitted as an inpatient to Nightingale Hospital, a private mental institution 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” after his admission last spring, consultant psychiatrist Dr Sean Cross said.

Summarizing the doctor’s statement, Chief Coroner Darren Salter said: “Towards the end of his period of admission there is a reference to Mr Nicholls [being] open to the fact that he went through a very difficult period and an episode of mental health problems similar to the one he experienced in 1995-96. He is open to the fact that this is how anxiety and depression show up 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 disease was found to be exhausting for him,” Mr Salter told the inquest.

Ms Nicholls said in her statement that prior to her disappearance her husband had stopped taking his psychiatric medication. She said, “He don’t believe in them no more.”

The last time she saw him was at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 23, when he said he was going to bed.

The next morning Mrs Nicholls was walking their dog on Wittenham Clumps. When she got home around 8 a.m., she saw his office light was on and assumed he was using the room.

He was not in the office but had left a handwritten note in an A4 notebook on the desk.

Ms Nicholls said: ‘I knew straight away what that letter was. She believed he had written it with the intention of committing suicide and immediately called 999. Her keys, mobile phone and bank cards had been left in the house.

Police were called to Cleeve Lock on March 24 – exactly one month later – by off-duty lock keeper Stephen Lambley. A man had knocked on her back door shortly after 11:30 a.m., telling her 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.

For help, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.

This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as a forensic and crime reporter from Oxfordshire.

To contact him, email: [email protected]

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