Tribute paid to farm worker after inquest

A “knowledgable and hardworking countryman” has been remembered by friends and family following an inquest into his death.

Gary Whelband, 45, of Woodmans Cottage in Sarsgrove near Chipping Norton, died on October 7 last year and an inquest held last Thursday concluded he took his own life.

Roddie Fleming, owner of Sarsgrove Farm where Mr Whelband worked, described him as a “hardworking, knowledgeable and thorough man.”

Speaking after the inquest at Oxford County Hall, Mr Fleming said: “He was a keen countryman through and through. He was very dedicated and exceptionally hardworking at all times of the day in whatever weather. He loved every aspect of being outdoors; he never felt the cold. He was a good man.”

Mr Whelband lived on the farm with his partner Alison Cosgrove and their two children Tara, 14, and Lindsey, 22. He was the farm manager and his responsibilities included looking after the farm and dealing with day-to-day jobs.

Oxfordshire coronor Dan Salter read evidence from Ms Cosgrove, which said on October 7 Mr Whelband went horse riding with a family member and it seemed they had some sort of disagreement.

Ms Cosgrove said: “By 5pm he had gone out. I was concerned about him and asked if he was okay which he said he was and said he was chilling by the back gate.”

The court was told that Ms Cosgrove left their home to do some shopping before coming back at about 6.15pm to find Mr Whelband was not home. She tried to call his phone but was diverted to his answer machine. She saw his truck at the back of the house before shouting out to him and then seeing him at the bottom of the hill with a rope around his neck.

Ms Cosgrove tried to revive Mr Whelband before calling Mr Fleming who called the ambulance. In a statement read out in court, Mr Fleming said he had employed Mr Whelband on his farm in Sarsgrove and described him as a thoughtful man.

He received a call from a distressed Ms Cosgrove asking him to meet her as Mr Whelband had hanged himself.

They both tried to resuscitate Mr Whelband for about 15 to 20 minutes before emergency services arrived but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post mortem report showed Mr Whelband had no alcohol or drugs in his body, and there were no suspicious circumstances.

Dr Isabel Welch of White Horse Surgery in Chipping Norton said Mr Whelband had first come to the surgery’s attention on August 28 of last year, showing signs of depression.

Her statement read: “Mr Whelband was referred to a practice counsellor and admitted to Banbury’s Horton General Hospital on September 6 following an overdose on sleeping tablets, which was to help him sleep and not a suicide attempt.

“He had several meetings with practice counsellors during the time, who reported he was now at a low risk of harm and spoke about being positive and looking forward to the future.”