Man who killed himself feared the effects of financial crisis

Executive became more stressed as downturn worsened, inquest hears
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The Independent Online

A wealthy financier who threw himself in front of a train in Buckinghamshire was wracked with fear about the economic downturn, an inquest heard yesterday.

Kirk Stephenson, 47, the chief operating officer at the private equity firm Olivant, faced "considerable financial loss" in the global banking crisis.

He was hit by a train travelling at 125mph in September. A jury at Amersham Coroners Court recorded a verdict of suicide, making him possibly the first man in Britain to take his life as a direct result of the banking crisis.

Olivant, which was set up in 2006, came to prominence this year as a potential bidder for Northern Rock.

Mr Stephenson, also known as Ross, earned more than £300,000 a year and lived in Chelsea with his wife, Karina Robinson, and their child. His family said he had been "a life enhancer – not with a showy, life and soul of the party sort of charisma but as a planner and co-ordinator who quietly and with no fuss ensured everyone around him had a marvellous time."

The inquest was read a statement by Ms Robinson, who he married in 1999. She said her husband had been in a high pressure job, which he had coped with. "When the banking system started to collapse, Ross became very tense and worried about a lot of things he had worked hard for.

"He was slowly getting more worried and on Monday 22 September, he came home for dinner. He looked very stressed and mentioned the thought of killing himself over the credit crunch but he couldn't do it because he loved me and the child too much." On 25 September, he left for work as usual. "Nothing in his manner that morning gave me any cause for concern."

A First Great Western train driver, Iain Bassett, said he had seen a man jump in front of his train as it approached Taplow station that morning. He had applied the brake and sounded the horn but to no avail. Mr Stephenson died instantly. There was no trace of alcohol or drugs in his system.

Coroner Richard Hulett said Mr Stephenson appeared to be successful and prosperous. "We all know about the dire events which have overtaken public and private finance and made headlines on a day to day basis... these developments made a substantial impact on his attitude to life and financial welfare. It appears these were very real risks that were now threatening him and his family's lifestyle."

None of his family was present at the hour-long hearing.

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