Ex-Sea Lord facing ruin at Lloyd's killed himself: Son blames market for death of 'name' who became depressed by large losses

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The Independent Online
A FORMER Second Sea Lord killed himself last month because he faced financial ruin on the Lloyd's insurance market, an inquest was told yesterday.

Admiral Sir Richard 'Dickie' Fitch, 64, was discovered by his wife in his fume-filled car parked in the garage at their home in Middleton-on-Sea, West Sussex.

Sir Richard, who was second in command of the Royal Navy before retiring five years ago, had been a Lloyd's 'name' for several years.

His French-born wife, Lady Kathleen, told the hearing at Chichester: 'He was suffering clinical depression due to the worry of Lloyd's over the last three years.

'The depression affected him quite a lot at times and it would lead to a certain irrationality in his behaviour.'

Asked if her husband was suffering financial hardship because of the Lloyd's situation, she replied: 'He would probably have faced difficulties in the future. He never spoke about taking his own life because of his financial problems. It was absolutely out of character.'

Lady Kathleen said she discovered his body in the Volvo car after she returned from a doctor's appointment. But her efforts to revive him failed.

Recording a verdict of suicide, the coroner, Mark Calvert-Lee, said: 'It would be unrealistic to believe this was a tragic accident. It may have been an entirely transient, spur-of-the-moment decision and one quite foreign to his general nature. There must have been several occasions during his professional life when he faced difficult decisions bravely and sensibly, but unfortunately on this occasion he felt unable to act in this way.'

Sir Richard, well-known as 'Dickie', had a glittering career in the Royal Navy. He was a veteran of the Korean war and a former commander of the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. During the Falklands conflict he was naval secretary in charge of the appointment and promotion of officers.

His son, also Richard, 21, a student at Edinburgh University, said after the hearing: 'My father had paid out three lots of pounds 100,000 since 1991 and the losses were expected to continue. Things were reaching crisis point and losing the house was a distinct possibility. He had already sold his yacht and we have not been on a family holiday for years.

'In theory, the losses were going to continue at that rate every year and he was going to be in dire financial trouble. I just think Lloyd's was an outdated institution waiting for a disaster to happen and people are now having to suffer because of it,' he said.

'I would think most people would agree that his death was caused by Lloyd's. Before all this happened he was always full of life and had a twinkle in his eye. He had been ill recently but that had been brought on by Lloyd's.

'He had all the stress brought on by Lloyd's and that made him depressed, which was out of character. The prospect of what might have happened in the next year or two weighed very heavily on his mind. He was upset. It was a difficult situation with no apparent escape.

'He did not make much money from Lloyd's and his losses far, far outweighed the money he received. There seems to be a rather amateurish air around Lloyd's, sometimes bordering on incompetence, that does not inspire confidence.

'It now seems to be going through the painful process of reform. Its hardship committee was greeted with suspicion, and people think of it as a debt-collecting agency for Lloyd's'

A spokesman for Lloyd's declined to comment.

(Photograph omitted)