MyBid4It company director Charlie Lancaster took his own life aged 36 after 'finding lockdown hard'

A young estate agent who had set up his own business took his own life after a long battle with depression, an inquest has heard.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 4:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th November 2020, 12:55 pm
Charlie Lancaster was area manager for workspace provider Regus in Leeds, pictured, in 2017

Charlie Lancaster, 36, started auction firm MyBid4It in 2018, having previously worked for Lancaster Simms, the York estate agency he co-founded in 2012.

He was found dead at his flat in York on August 18 by his girlfriend of three years Gemma Stanham, who had been supporting him through his mental health issues.

An inquest held at County Hall in Northallerton on November 16 heard that Mr Lancaster had struggled with anxiety and depression since his 20s, and took antidepressant medication intermittently. He also saw a therapist regularly.

Miss Stanham told the hearing in a statement that Mr Lancaster had been 'finding things hard' during lockdown, when he was working from home, but had seemer brighter, more alert and helpful in the weeks prior to his death, leading her to believe that he had 'turned a corner'.

On the night before he died, the couple watched a Netflix series together at their apartment in Clementhorpe Maltings, in York city centre. They both rose before 9am the next day, and Miss Stanham left for work soon after. She said her boyfriend 'seemed normal' and they chatted about what he would eat for lunch. They exchanged text messages and a selfie while she was at work, with their last contact being around 2.45pm.

Miss Stanham popped into Tesco on her way home - a decision she said she later regretted - and arrived around 6.20pm. She could not open the bedroom door, and when she did so, discovered Mr Lancaster unresponsive. There was some alcohol on the living room table, but she stated that he was not an excessive drinker.

A postmortem later found alcohol and antidepressant medication in his bloodstream, but the levels were not enough to be fatal.

Mr Lancaster's GP told the inquest that he had struggled with his mood since 2016, and that this was connected in part to his father's sudden death from suicide. He had declined a psychiatric referral but did accept the offer to see a counsellor.

By July 2020, his mood had worsened and he told his GP that he was not enjoying his 'usual activities'. At this point, he denied having suicidal thoughts and said he felt supported by his partner and sisters.

Mr Lancaster's therapist Polly Wong said she had seen him for 40 sessions since 2016, 33 of which were private referrals.

"We talked about how he needed to 'not always chase the next high to make me happy', and about not making lifestyle choices that were detrimental to his mental health."

On July 22, he told Ms Wong that he was experiencing frequent thoughts about ending his life, but could not do it because fear stopped him. After another session on July 30, Ms Wong said she felt 'troubled' by their conversation but did not feel that Mr Lancaster was at immediate risk as he had a good support network.

He had spoken of experiencing 'emotional pain and wanting escape', but also said the suicidal thoughts were less frequent by this point.

Ms Wong offered him another appointment on August 5, which he did not take up but thanked her for, and she felt that he was 'in a better place'.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire John Broadbridge that although Mr Lancaster's education levels, employment and support network meant he was not in the 'at risk' group for male suicides, he had nevertheless taken his own life.

"He was known to be suffering from depression. He gave no signs that he was planning suicide, though the thought had entered his head. Everything seemed normal - he left no note and had no severe mental illness.

"He knew he would be on his own, that his partner would be at work and that he could not expect to be disturbed. There was a mechanism that involved thought and planning - this was not an accident or a cry for help".

Mr Lancaster grew up in Harrogate and was living in York at the time of his death.

His business had a sponsorship deal with Harrogate Town FC.

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