Inquest held into death of former Wetherby and Selby rugby star Tom Edwards

A top rugby player hanged himself in woods after returning from a players’ stag trip to Prague.
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Tom Edwards, 29, former star player at Wetherby Rugby Union Club who went on to become captain of Selby RUFC’s first team, was about to marry his fiancée at the time of his death, an inquest in Northallerton heard yesterday.

Tom, a highly popular man whose death sparked an outpouring of grief in North Yorkshire rugby circles, was found in Barlow Woods, near his home in Selby, in the early hours of November 17 last year.

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The inquest was told that Tom, who lived with his fiancée Katie Welburn in the village of Camblesforth, left his home late at night on November 16, his partner’s birthday, ostensibly to visit a family member, but didn’t return.

An inquest has taken place into the death of former Wetherby and Selby rugby star Tom EdwardsAn inquest has taken place into the death of former Wetherby and Selby rugby star Tom Edwards
An inquest has taken place into the death of former Wetherby and Selby rugby star Tom Edwards

Ms Welburn called Tom’s brother-in-law Daniel Green saying she was worried about him and a missing-person’s report was passed to police just before midnight.

Mr Green and some of Tom’s friends went looking for him and found Tom’s Vauxhall Corsa van parked on a country lane at Barlow Woods but couldn’t find him.

Eventually, Mr Green found him and he had not left a note.

Ms Welburn said that she and Tom, who had been engaged for over two years, were due to get married on New Year’s Eve, little over a month after Tom’s death.

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She said Tom “wore his heart on his sleeve” and was “very caring and captain of the rugby club”.

“On the surface he always seemed very happy,” she added.

On November 11, Tom and a group of friends from Selby RUFC went on a stag trip to Prague and Mr Green was also on the trip.

When Tom returned, he and Ms Wellburn had a slight argument about what went on during the Prague trip, but they quickly made up and had a hug.

Ms Wellburn said that Tom, who worked as a tree surgeon, seemed “really happy” and the following day he ordered her a bunch of flowers and bought her a birthday cake.

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That evening, after Ms Welburn returned from work, he cooked them tea and wrote her a poem.

However, she said he still “looked troubled about Prague” and that at one point he said he “couldn’t live with himself” and talked of hanging himself.

It was as if he “couldn’t handle upsetting her”, the inquest was told.

Tom, who was born in Leeds and played for Wetherby RUFC before moving to Selby, went out in his van and was supposed to return soon afterwards, but he never did.

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Becoming increasingly concerned, Ms Welburn kept ringing his phone and sending him texts but there was no reply.

Mr Green, Tom’s brother-in-law-to-be, said he saw Tom on Ms Wellburn’s birthday, the day he disappeared, at their home in Camblesforth, and he “appeared fine”, enjoying a glass of his favourite whisky.

Mr Green and his partner returned home and got a call from Ms Welburn who was “hysterical”, saying she had found Tom’s phone in the house and was starting to get worried about him because it was “totally out of character” for him to vanish like that.

Mr Green and Tom’s friends went out looking for him and focused their search on the back road between Camblesforth and Barlow where he liked to walk.

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Mr Green went into the woods at Barlow, searching with a phone torchlight in torrential rain.

He said he shouted for help and his friends and police were quickly on the scene.

Attempts were made to resuscitate Tom, but paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

Tom’s GP said the former rugby captain had no record of depression or self-harm.

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Coroner Sarah Watson said she was sure that Tom had intended to take his own life and recorded a verdict of suicide.

She said she was “truly sorry” for Tom’s family’s loss and that she “couldn’t imagine their grief”.

She said that Tom and his fiancée were “looking forward to their happiest day” but it had turned into the “saddest” of times.

Following Tom’s death, Wetherby RUFC paid tribute to the “extremely popular and well-loved” rugby player.

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He was described as a “brilliant player and fantastic teammate” who had come through the junior ranks at Wetherby before playing over 150 games for the first XV, captaining the side on several occasions.

Tom was a figurehead of the all-conquering Wetherby team of the 2014/15 season which achieved back-to-back promotions from the Yorkshire 4 division to Yorkshire 2 and won the Yorkshire silver trophy in 2015.

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