"Wonderful and kind" teenage student Thomas Gudgeon's secret sadness was revealed in his phone notes inquest is told

A coroner has concluded that a 16 year old Lancashire student, described as “wonderful and kind”, took his own life.

Thomas William Gudgeon was found at his home in Salisbury Road, Lancaster, on March 10 this year.

An inquest in Preston yesterday (Monday) was told there had been no indication that Thomas, a clever pupil at Ripley St Thomas school in Lancaster, had suicidal intentions, but when personal notes were accessed on his phone last week it was clear he had been very sad.

Evidence read out in court detailed how Thomas had gone to school as normal on the day he died.

Preston Coroner's Court, Faraday Court, Fulwood

When the family found the door of their home locked later that day and gained entry Thomas was discovered. Area Coroner Richard Taylor said the cause of death was hanging.

Detective Inspector Kirsty Wyatt from Lancashire Constabulary said there had been no evidence Thomas was contemplating or had ideas about taking his own life. But some new evidence had come to light when notes Thomas made on his phone had been accessed. DI Wyatt said: “Thomas had written lots and lots of notes ... He wasn't talking about particularly wanting to take his life. He was very sad.”

The comments went back to 2021.

DI Wyatt said it was clear from a multi-agency meeting that it had never been known or indicated that Thomas had suffered in any way with his mental health.

Katy Benter, vice principal at Ripley St Thomas Academy, said Thomas had been a pupil at the school since September 2021.

The coroner noted Thomas was very clever, was studying for his A’levels and there had been concerns about the pressure of work and a discussion about whether he might drop one of his A’levels.

But the court was told that by January this year Thomas was excelling at his studies, had very good exam results and there had no longer been a suggestion he should maybe drop further maths. Ms Benter said: “All of his teachers spoke very highly of Thomas.”

The court was told Thomas had missed the first induction week at his new sixth form due to Covid and that teachers and sixth form tutors had tried to help him settle in. Some time after the first half term Thomas’s mother had contacted the school regarding worries about how well he had settled in.

Thomas had been advised counselling services were available and Katy Benter said he had been grateful for the advice but did not feel he needed the service. The vice principal said: “We saw a real improvement then and in his confidence...We didn’t have any concerns ongoing that he was beginning to feel a little unsettled.”

Thomas’s father Shane told the court he knew the last few years had been difficult for many people: “We know these last few years it’s just been hard for everybody with the Covid and restrictions and stuff like that... I ‘d always said to our sons if (they) ever want help or anything they only had to ask...Nobody should have to do that. There should always be somebody there they can talk to, if not parents, someone else.”

The coroner told Thomas’s parents their son seemed to have got through the stresses of the late start to school caused by Covid and that his phone notes did not refer to anything specific, but he had very sad thoughts. He said: “I don’t criticise him. He chose not to share them, for whatever reason that may have been. As you say you were always available for him.”

He said the school was too, adding: “The messages that have been left while not indicating a specific intent they do talk about an awful lot of issues and despondency he was clearly feeling over a time.”

After the inquest Catherine Walmsley, Principal at Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy, paid tribute to Thomas and said: “This is sad and difficult for everyone involved with Ripley St Thomas. Thomas was a wonderful student and we were all shocked by his death. He was determined to understand everything thoroughly, intellectually curious and eager to learn. All his teachers describe Thomas as a delight to teach, very high achieving, extremely polite and with a real love of learning.

“Alongside this was a real humanity, a kindness to others, he was thoughtful and considerate. We were always so impressed by his desire to help others, giving up his own time to do so, including the voluntary work he undertook at St John's Hospice Pound Shop in Lancaster.

“We only knew Thomas for less than a year but his loss has been very keenly felt at Ripley with an outpouring of love and grief within the school community but also a recognition of his kindness, warmth of personality, caring and generous spirit and the wonderful sense of fun that he brought to us all.

“Students and staff in school have been supported by staff, by our chaplain, Michael and our parish priest, the Rev Leah Vaey-Saunders, as well as our school counsellor. We are also in close contact with the family and offer our ongoing thoughts and prayers at what is a most difficult time.”

* If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues help is available.

Samaritans: A 24 hour a day free service. See Samaritans.org or call 116 123 or email [email protected] (emails responded to within 24 hours)

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide: HopelineUK helpline 9am to midnight daily on 0800 068 4141 email [email protected] (emails responded to within 24 hours) or see papyrus-uk.org

Childline: Call 0800 1111. Calls are free or see childline.org.uk

* studentsagainstdepression.org

CALM (campaign against living miserably) Helpline 0800 58 58 58 or see thecalmzone.net