Child porn officer 'killed himself'

 

A police officer committed suicide after being arrested for downloading child pornography, an inquest heard today.

Sergeant John Skilling, 50, who served with Gloucestershire Police, was on bail after being questioned by his own force investigating the trade in child sex abuse images.

The body of Mr Skilling was discovered on the morning of November 20 last year by a family friend in the garage of his home in Hucclecote, Gloucester, the county's coroner's court heard.

The day before his death Mr Skilling, who was widowed, told his children he was planning a night out socialising with friends and they should sleep at their friends' homes.

Gregory Owen, a family friend, discovered the policeman's body having been alerted by Mr Skilling's eldest daughter.

The inquest also heard that Mr Skilling's wife had died from cancer when their two children were young and since then he had brought them up alone, suffering from bouts of depression and drinking heavily.

In the weeks before he died, Mr Skilling, who had served with Gloucestershire Police for over 20 years, had told his GP he had trouble sleeping and was seeking professional help from an alcohol service.

The court heard evidence of the police investigation into Mr Skilling, who had worked as head of his force's schools unit.

Police went to his home on September 13 with a warrant after receiving information from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

"At the commencement of the search it became clear a computer in John Skilling's bedroom was operating and was in the process of downloading files with titles they suggested contained indecent images of children," Detective Inspector Mark Little said in a written statement.

"As a result of this and comments made by John Skilling he was arrested on suspicion of making, possession and distribution of indecent images of children between March 22 2009 and September 13 2011."

In his interview later that day Mr Skilling admitted downloading indecent photographs and movies of children and said this had begun two or three years previously.

However, he denied having a sexual interest in children or abusing any child linked to his position as a police officer.

Computers and other equipment were seized from his home and a detailed forensic examination discovered a total of 7,730 indecent photographs - ranging from Level One to Five - and 57 movie clips - ranging from Level One to Four.

There were also encrypted documents of typed stories depicting the rape, abuse and abduction of children.

The analysis suggested that the first indecent images had been downloaded in 2007.

Mr Skilling was later bailed pending further inquiries. On October 14, he resigned from the police.

On November 10 he answered bail and was further interviewed by officers.

He admitted responsibility for downloading all the material recovered by the police from his home.

"John Skilling denied any sexual arousal from downloading these child abuse images and stated it was a thrill because he knew the images were illicit," Mr Little said.

"John Skilling also admitted downloading and reading stories of child abuse, child rape and child abduction but could not explain why he had done this.

"The district crown prosecutor reviewed the evidence and reported that had John Skilling not died there was sufficient evidence to charge him with criminal offences."

The court heard that the allegations against Mr Skilling did not involve anything to do with his work as a police officer.

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Skilling died from a "high level" of carbon monoxide poisoning.

And blood tests revealed an alcohol level slightly above the legal drink-drive limit.

Deputy Gloucestershire Coroner David Dooley said the notes Mr Skilling left had given details to his daughters of his financial affairs and funeral arrangements.

"Of the notes that were found, they gave his suicidal intent and also an element of the detailed arrangements of his financial affairs to be notified to his children, telling them where assets were held," he said.

Mr Dooley said the evidence before him was strong enough to enable him to record a verdict of suicide.

"The evidence here is of a man who suffers from anxiety and depression of a long-term nature following the death of his wife from cancer," he said.

"More particularly following on from the discovery of his illegal actions on his home computer.

"He retired from his position as a police sergeant and one must assume he retired before he lost that position.

"He knew he was facing prosecution in light of both his actions and his admissions.

"It would appear that he could not face the predicament he had left himself in and that was exhibited in the notes to his children.

"Either that he could not face the personal shame that he felt or cope with the pain that he realised his actions would cause to his family.

"I believe on the evidence I can be sure of his intent to take his own life and also dismiss any other possibility to the cause of his death."

None of Mr Skilling's family was present in court today.

PA

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