Tycoon who had cancer killed himself with poison in sauna

A millionaire shipping magnate killed himself by pouring rat poison on to his home sauna, an inquest was told yesterday.

Sir Derek Bibby, 80, president of the Liverpool-based Bibby Group, was suffering from prostate cancer and leukaemia when he ladled the rat poisonover hot coals to produce a toxic gas, aluminium phosphide. The inquest at Wallasey Town Hall was told that Sir Derek's daughter, Jennifer, arrived at the family home in Willaston, Cheshire, on 9 October to find a note warning her to stay clear of the sauna and call 999. Firemen in protective clothing broke in and found Sir Derek slumped on the floor, barely conscious.

Sir Derek, who had mixed the rat poison with water in an ice-cream tub, was taken to Arrowe Park Hospital, Birkenhead, but later pronounced dead. The hospital's casualty department was closed for 12 hours because of toxic fumes from the body. Doctors were unable to examine the dead tycoon because of the toxicity, but the Wirral coroner, Christopher Johnson, used the evidence of doctors and the emergency services to conclude that Sir Derek died of respiratory failure caused by aluminium phosphide.

The inquest was told that Sir Derek repeatedly said he planned to kill himself if his illness affected the quality of his life. The coroner, Christopher Johnson, recording a verdict of suicide, said Sir Derek appeared to have made a "clear and conscious decision to end his life". He added: "The manner and circumstances of his death leave me in no doubt that it was his intention to and that he did take his own life."

Sir Derek won the Military Cross for his service in the Second World War and after leaving the Army set up a youth club in Birkenhead.

The inquest was told how Sir Derek's wife, Christine, arrived home to see paramedics trying to resuscitate him in the driveway. Her first words were: "What has my husband done?" He leaves his wife, four sons and a daughter.