Bridgend inquests told of young men's tormented lives and desperate deaths

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The Independent Online

The tormented lives of five young people from Bridgend were laid bare before a coroner's court as inquests were held into some of the 17 suspected suicides in the small corner of South Wales.

The area hit the headlines when it emerged that so many young people had been found dead in just over a year. The police forcefully denied initial speculation that they had all been part of an internet-based suicide pact but questions remained as to why such an apparent cluster should develop in the county.

Yesterday the different factors that contributed to four of the deaths were very evident. For one, it was the loss of a friend, for another the break-up of a relationship, a third succumbed to drugs and a fourth was terrified by death threats. But, for a fifth, the motive remained a mystery.

Ruling out any link, Bridgend Coroner Philip Walters said he was treating the deaths of Allyn Price, Leigh Jenkins, Jason Williams, Andrew O'Neil and Gareth Morgan individually. He recorded suicide verdicts on just two of the victims, saying he had to be certain of definite intention before choosing such an option.

Mr Walters heard first about the cases of two close friends who died within weeks of each other. The first was Allyn Price, 24, an apparently "happy-go-lucky" young man who had become involved with drugs.

His girlfriend Alisha Austin said he had changed and become "short-tempered". Recounting a phone conversation they had the day he died, she said: "He said 'I have got nothing to live for. Will you always be there for me?' I said 'Yes, of course'." But in April last year, his father Gwynfor Price found him hanging at the family home in Maesteg, with traces of amphetamine MDMA, cocaine and morphine in his body.

Avoiding a suicide verdict as there was no "definite intention", Mr Walters said he was certain no one else was involved. "I would accept ... the drugs could have affected his mood and judgement."

Mr Price's death had a terrible impact on his friend Leigh Jenkins, 22. Weeks later, in the early hours of 3 June, he was found hanging from a window at a friend's flat.

His mother, Beverly, told the inquest her son had a history of depression. He had been badly affected by his friend's death, visited his graveside every day and talked of them being "together".

Mr Walters recorded a narrative verdict after hearing that Mr Jenkins was three times the drink-drive limit and had illegal amphetamines in his system when he died, which would have highly affected his judgement.

Andrew O'Neil, 20, the court was told, had been seriously affected by death threats and was "edgy and nervous".

His sister Charlene said he had been very frightened after two youths had come looking for him and threatened to shoot him because he owed money. Mr O'Neil, who had been in trouble with the police for minor offences, did not report the threats.

In September last year, Charlene and her mother found him hanging in an empty house.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Walters said he had "no doubt in my mind" that Mr O'Neil would have been affected by the threats.

Gareth Morgan, 27, of Bridgend, was so upset by splitting up with his girlfriend, Leanne Stone, that he sent her a text message on 5 January telling her he would see her in the next life.

Ms Stone said she assumed he was drunk but Mr Morgan was found hanging in his room later that day. A note read: "Mam, I'm sorry. I just can't do it no more. Tell Leanne I love her. I love you. All my love Gareth."

Mr Walters said he would not use the word suicide because drink could have affected his judgement but added: "I am satisfied that the break-up of this relationship had some part to play in the situation generally."

But in the case of Jason Williams, 21, there was no obvious explanation why he hanged himself in his garage in North Cornelly. His fiancée Sian Davies, who found him on 23 August last year, described him as a "very, very shy person" who had gone to work as a lorry driver as normal that day. In recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Walters said: "Unfortunately this is one of those cases... where we can find... no apparent reason why this event has occurred."