Saatchi founder died as bondage night went wrong

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A highly successful advertising executive died a bizarre and painful death in a dank underground water tank when his elaborate bondage act went wrong, an inquest was told yesterday.

Christopher Martin, 48, who resurrected the Ovalteenies in the 1970s and helped found the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency, was a very highly respected copywriter. Mr Martin also created a series of adverts for Cadbury's Chocolate Buttons in which celebrities including Felicity Kendall read children's stories. He lived with his wife, Janet, and their three children in a converted barn in the village of Steep, Hampshire.

"But," said the county coroner James Kenroy, "it transpires that this apparently normal and successful family man had his own Achilles' heel."

This "vulnerability", as Mr Kenroy put it, was his lust for high-risk erotic adventure. On the evening of 26 July, Mr Martin returned home early from work. Colleagues on his train that evening said he was in good spirits.

After a telephone conversation with his wife, who was away on holiday with the children, Mr Martin stripped down to his boxer shorts and began constructing his intricate bondage rigging.

Detective Superintendent Andrew Longman, who led the investigation into his death, told the inquest that Mr Martin first attached a rope to his garden roller near the back wall of his house. He placed a stick in front of it as a prop to stop it moving forward and then fed the rope 9ft across the lawn to the entrance of the underground tank.

He then tied his ankles together and descended the ladder into the gloom of the 10ft deep tank. The final stage of this bizarre incident was to tie - behind his back - the long rope from the roller to the one binding his ankles, and fashion a noose through which he slipped his wrists. Michael Lucas, a knot expert,told the inquest that it would have been possible for Mr Martin, an expert sailor, to have tied all the knots himself.

In this position, said Mr Lucas, with his hands and ankles tied behind his back and joined by the main rope leading out of the hole, Mr Martin would have been able to launch himself from the ladder, suspending himself face down in mid-air, 5ft above the water.

It was Mr Martin's plan for the roller to hold his weight but that is when tragedy struck, the inquest heard.

The stick propping up the roller was dislodged, the roller moved across the lawn towards the entrance to the tank, lowering Mr Martin's body to the bottom of the chamber and plunging his face under the water.

Mr Kenroy said despite the water being only 6 inches deep, Mr Martin could have splashed and struggled for up to 16 and a half hours, trying to free himself and unable to reach the ladder.His cries for help, distorted by the acoustics of the tank, were interpreted by neighbours as the lowing of cows. As his strength waned and he found it increasingly difficult to keep his head above water, he slowly drowned.

The inquest also heard this was not the first time Mr Martin had tried bondage. Frank Harris, a neighbour of his 20 years ago, when he lived in Petersfield, Hampshire, heard him crying for help one night. Breaking into his cottage, he found Mr Martin dangling from the beams of his attic, his wrists and ankles tied.

Det Supt Longman added that when Mr Martin's body was found by his brother, Colin, on the evening of 27 July, there were two other ropes slung over beams in the house, one tied in a noose, suggesting he could have tried the bondage act there first. Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, ruling out suicide, Mr Kenroy said: "It is a tragedy that the deceased got himself into."

Comments