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UK- Covingham man fell from Brunel car park

12-2-2008 United Kingdom:

A CONVICTED sex offender jumped from a car park roof because he was scared of going to jail, an inquest heard.

Christopher Harding, 24, of Verney Close, Covingham, died when he fell from the roof of the Brunel car park in Swindon on September 30 last year.

Mr Harding’s mum, Deborah, believed he may have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia as he suffered deep insecurity over his looks.

She told the coroner's court how she wished he had been arrested under the Mental Health Act after attempts to take his own life, which may have been cries for help.

He was convicted in 2006 of having sex with a 14-year-old girl in 2005 and was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

At an inquest in Trowbridge his mother said her son, who was a father, told her he did not know the girl was 14 and said he had wanted to change his original plea of guilty.

But he was advised by his solicitor to stick to his original plea. She told the corner's court: “The conviction changed his life, he was absolutely devastated. He was in pieces during his police interview. He made an admission that he knew her age but he told me he thought she was older.

“He felt he wasn’t guilty. The girl looked older and dressed older.”

The court heard how Mr Harding lost many friends after the conviction and hated attending a sex offender’s programme, as he was in contact with men who abused very young children.

“He hated it, as he had to go to meetings with serious sex offenders.” said Mrs Harding. “He felt categorised as a serious sex offender.”

In July last year, he crashed his car and claimed it was stolen. His family persuaded him to confess to the police. And as a result, he became certain he would go to jail and be beaten up because of his sex record.

“He was terrified of going to prison because of his sex offence,” Mrs Harding said.

Mr Harding, who regularly used cannabis, also had problems getting a job, which he believed was down to his criminal record, the court heard.

During a holiday with his mum last year in Lanzarote she said he was becoming paranoid. She said: “The shutters even had to be pulled down on the plane, as he didn’t want anyone to see him. He even thought Germans were talking about him. I was convinced he was suffering from some sort of mental illness.”

Mrs Harding told the court: “He would usually say: ‘See you mum’, but he came and gave me a hug, and said: ‘I love you'."

He left his phone and keys at home and made his way from Covingham to the town centre. CCTV footage showed him entering the car park stairwell.

A statement from the mother of Mr Harding’s son – Becky Wilson – said he was overly paranoid.

He regularly accused her of sleeping with other men, which put huge pressure on their relationship, she said, and described him as very complex and confused.

Assistant deputy coroner David Ridley said: “Fear of going to prison was behind Chris’s intention of taking his own life.” ..News Source.. by Sarah Hilley

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