A man due to stand trial for helping another man to commit suicide at Beachy Head was found hanged at his home 400 miles away yesterday after apparently taking his life.
Louis Gillies, 36, faced up to 14 years in prison for assisting Michael Gooden to kill himself at the notorious suicide spot near Eastbourne in East Sussex. The two men were said to have met on an internet website called Assisted Suicide Holidays, or ASH, which gives tips on how to kill yourself.
It was alleged that in the moments before they planned to leap from the 500ft cliffs, Mr Gillies received a call on his mobile phone from a friend who successfully persuaded him not to jump. He claimed that after changing his mind he tried to hand the phone to Mr Gooden, 35, from south London, but that he had already jumped to his death.
Mr Gillies was due to stand trial at Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex yesterday to face the extremely rare charge of assisting a suicide but when he failed to appear police went to his flat in Glasgow and found a hanged man. A suicide note signed by the defendant was found by the body.
Mr Gillies was charged with having aided, abetted, counselled or procured the suicide of Michael Gooden, contrary to the Suicide Act 1961 on a day between 20 May and 7 June 2002, at Eastbourne. Mr Gillies and Mr Gooden met each other at Eastbourne railway station before eating a last supper at the Beachy Head Hotel, yards from the cliff edge.
It was alleged that they met online at ASH, where issues such as how to commit suicide by hanging are discussed and where members leave messages for others to read.
On the day of Mr Gooden's death, the pair allegedly walked to the cliff edge to select a suitable jumping point. As they prepared to leap, Mr Gillies took a phone call from a close friend who managed to dissuade the defendant from going ahead with his plan. Mr Gillies said he then tried to pass the phone to Mr Gooden in the hope that he too may change his mind, but that he had already jumped. Mr Gooden's body was found washed up at Eastbourne.
On his way home, Mr Gillies stopped to post a message on the ASH website. He wrote how Mr Gooden had "caught the bus", a term used by ASH members to report that someone had committed suicide.
He also wrote that Mr Gooden was "very determined", and added: "He did not flinch. He ran off in unbelievable meteorological conditions. I hope he has found peace."
Judge Anthony Scott-Gall said: "This is a very bleak ending to a very bleak trial."