Best friends hanged in bizarre pact

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The Independent Online
THEY WERE old schoolfriends who had similar jobs and had a shared interest in music. Both 20, Philip Henry and Barry Henderson lived on the same council estate in Aberdeen. Last week, the young men attached two ropes to a tree and hanged themselves.

The two bodies were discovered in a quiet corner near their homes. They are understood to have been found hanging from two ropes tied together, so that if one fell, the rope would pull the other to his death. Yesterday, the Mastrik council estate where they lived remained stunned. Philip and Barry, who worked as furniture removers, knew each other from school and died at a place Barry had shown to friends as a good spot for mountain- biking.

Friends left cigarettes and lighters, as well as flowers, at the tree. Among the many cards at the scene is one from Philip's sister, who is expecting twins. It says: "Philip - I will always love you. I want you to know that I will always miss and think about you. Love from Nicola, your darling sister." Another says: "To Barry. Remember you always, brother. I love you. I miss you. Brian."

For two men to die in this way is extremely unusual; suicide pacts are usually among male and female lovers.

One theory is that one of them may have jumped deliberately, with the other dying more by accident. The police say the deaths are not being treated as suspicious.

The bodies were discovered just before 10am on Wednesday by a man walking his dog. They are not believed to have been dead for long, because the area is used early in the morning by other dog-owners. Paramedics failed to revive them.

Philip, tall with gingery blond hair, had performed as a DJ in local clubs and was highly regarded in an area of heavy youth unemployment for having the estate's most expensive system for mixing house music. Barry Henderson, the youngest of four boys, more slightly built and with dark hair, liked the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. He had just bought his own turntables and was being taught by Philip how to mix music.

"Hindu [Henderson] used to sit up in his room with his decks," said Stan Murray, 18. "He would be sitting at his window in his Hindu hat and we'd come and chat to him."

The deaths have raised fresh concern that families are missing suicidal signs among young males. Yesterday, Jean Kerr, of Papyrus, a support group for parents whose sons have killed themselves, warned that signs of depressive illness were being overlooked. Papyrus has questioned 79 sets of parents and found many undetected signs of depression.

"They often seem just like typical aspects of adolescence," said Mrs Kerr, whose son, Edward, took his life in 1989 when he was aged 17. "Parents should be worried if their children become very withdrawn, experience sudden changes of behaviour, or cut themselves off from their friends. Sometimes a boy will have said he wished he were dead in a jokey sort of way and it is dismissed at the time. Only afterwards do people recognise the significance of what he said."

Friends say Philip Henry, who had recently lost his job after four years as a furniture remover, said that he had spoken of killing himself. "Phil used to say he hated life," said Tristan Hardy, 16.

"He said he wanted to end it all, that there was nothing here for him. I tried to tell him that he had lots going for him." Another friend said Philip had been using heroin. "I feel guilty now because I've seen a few people around here who stick needles into themselves, but usually you can tell from the way they behave. I never guessed with Phil."

He added that Philip had also been worried about a court appearance, scheduled for September, when he was due to face charges after hitting someone over the head with a bottle in a nightclub.

Billy Henderson, Barry's father, said: "We think we know what happened. Philip was on a charge and taking heroin. It looks like my lad was in the wrong place at the wrong time and Philip pulled my lad down with him."

Philip's best friend recalled their final conversation at the beginning of last week. "He phoned me from The Schooner to ask if I wanted to come down for a pint but I couldn't take the day off work. I heard he was with Hindu, so rang Barry the next day. His dad said, `You won't be seeing Barry again. He was found dead today'.

"Now I can't go down to where it happened. I've lost two of my best mates."

Suicide and men

SUICIDE IS the biggest single cause of death among young men after road accidents. Last year, 530 men aged 15 to 24 and 1,112 men aged 25 to 34 committed suicide. The number of young men between 15 and 34 committing suicide is four times the number of young women.

Experts believe lack of prospects, unemployment and social pressure to be the main breadwinner contribute to an increasing number of mental health breakdowns in vulnerable young men.

The Samaritans have reported there is an attempted suicide every half hour involving someone aged 15 to 24. About 19,000 people in that age group try to kill themselves every year. Although more young women than men try to take their own lives, there are four times as many deaths among young men.