Farm owner 'killed himself'

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The Independent Online

A popular farm owner died after coming into contact with a "noxious substance" in an apparent suicide, sources close to the investigation said today.

Surrey Police are not treating the death of Bob Dearnley as suspicious, the source added.

Seven police officers were taken to hospital for observation after emergency services were called to Burpham Court Farm, in Guildford, Surrey, this morning.

Investigations were taking place to establish what the substance was, Surrey Police said.

Mr Dearnley, who ran the site with his wife, was a popular figure locally, having developed the farm as a conservation centre and tourist attraction.

A Surrey Police spokesman said emergency services were unable to revive the victim at the scene.

The spokesman said: "Following a call to Surrey Police during the early hours of May 28, officers arrived at Burpham Court Farm, Guildford, regarding a concern to safety.

"One person - a man in his 50s - was found at the premises and it was apparent some sort of noxious substance was present at the scene which is currently being investigated."

Officers alerted ambulance and fire services to the scene but the man died before he could be taken to hospital.

Seven officers were under observation at hospital, the spokesman added.

The former dairy farm is understood to have been transformed into a conservation centre and tourist attraction in the early 1990s.

Recent owners were the Duke of Sutherland and Paul Getty, but it was now tenanted by Mr Dearnley and his wife, Margaret, according to the farm's website. There was no one immediately available for comment at the site.

Parts of the 76-acre site, which boasts a variety of rare breeds of animals and wildlife set in a riverside habitat, date back to the 1600s.

A fire spokeswoman said they had still not established what the substance was.