Imaginary mistake led stressed actuary to hang himself

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AN ACTUARY killed himself in the mistaken belief that he had lost his insurance company millions of pounds, an inquest was told yesterday.

Christopher Long, 30, believed he had made serious errors in a computer program he was working on for his employer, Sunlife of Canada. He was found hanged from the banisters of his home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, by his father, Alan Long. He left a note saying he feared he would bankrupt the company.

The inquest in Basingstoke was told Christopher imagined he had been at fault because he was suffering from stress brought on by examination pressure. His father told the hearing that his son had worked at Sunlife of Canada for 10 years after taking a degree in pure mathematics at Lancaster University.

Mr Long said: "He was earning pounds 30,000, but he had very heavy deadlines imposed on him by work." He had received a call on 15 November from his son's office in Basingstoke saying that Christopher had not turned up. "I was quite concerned because Christopher was very conscientious."

Mr Long telephoned the police, who checked his son's house but could not get in. Mr Long drove to Basingstoke from his home in Stroud, Gloucestershire. A neighbour let him in, and he found his son hanging from the banisters.

Notes upstairs in the house included one to a work colleague. It said: "The quotations programs I wrote are completely wrong and need to be changed. They could cost the company a lot of money, maybe millions of pounds, possibly even making it insolvent." There was also a letter of resignation to his boss, Michael Edwards.

Mr Edwards told the inquest: "It was a minor mistake, insignificant, and I don't feel it was anything Christopher should feel responsible for anyway, it was not a program he wrote." He added that Christopher had approached him a few days earlier, "obviously upset", and tried to resign. Mr Edwards gave him two days off.

The inquest was told that actuarial exams had put Christopher under great pressure, leading to a number of psychotic episodes between 1996 and 1998.

The coroner recorded a verdict that Mr Long, from Riverdene, Basingstoke, had committed suicide.