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Man who 'hated his looks' took fatal overdose at New Forest hotel

Steven Fairbrother (55) was found unconscious at the Master Builder’s Hotel at Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu
Steven Fairbrother (55) was found unconscious at the Master Builder’s Hotel at Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu

A MAN who killed himself at an upmarket New Forest hotel had been suffering from a mental condition in which he was so ashamed of his looks he would not go out in daylight, his devastated husband told an inquest.

Steven Fairbrother (55) was found unconscious in bed by horrified staff at the Master Builder’s Hotel at Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu after they found a note taped to the door of his room stating: “Do not enter”, followed by instructions to phone the emergency services.

They desperately tried to save his life by performing CPR but despite the arrival of paramedics Mr Fairbrother died at the scene from an overdose of anti-depressants.

In a statement to Winchester Coroner’s Court, his heartbroken husband Daryl Lord (73) told how he only realised Mr Fairbrother had been suffering from the mental health condition, known as body dysmorphia, when he watched a documentary about it after his death.

He said: “To my horror, the symptoms, I recognised. I knew he was a perfectionist. Everything had to be perfect.”

Body dysmorphia where a person becomes obsessed by what they see as imperfections in their face or body which often do not exist. Sufferers often say they look “ugly” in a mirror.

The condition is closely linked to obsessive compulsive disorder and can lead to anxiety, depression and suicide.

Mr Lord, who had been with Mr Fairbrother for 38 years and lived with him in Draper Road, Poole, said that in recent months his partner had undergone cosmetic surgery on bags under his eyes.

According to Mr Lord the results had been good, but he said Mr Fairbrother “would ask about it daily”.

The couple were amongst the first to undergo a same-sex marriage when it became legal in the UK in 2014. After meeting they had worked together in the hotel industry locally while Steven had also built up a property portfolio.

A report in a national newspaper revealed that in 2003 there were living in a house in Sandbanks which they were selling for £2.2m.

Mr Fairbrother said his husband became convinced the surgery had gone wrong and took to wearing plasters under his eyes.

In the weeks leading up to his death Mr Fairbrother would not leave the house in daylight, said Mr Lord, adding: “He did not want to be seen and would only be seen in darkness.”

He said he believed his husband had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to hide his condition, deleting all his computer information and not allowing his local GP access to records held by a medical team he saw in London.

Mr Fairbrother had been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1998 which he received treatment for in the capital. He also suffered osteoarthritis but Mr Lord said it was his own health that his partner was worried about.

Revealing that he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and that there was an 18-year age gap between the couple, he said Mr Fairbrother had been “horrified” when he was taken seriously ill with the breathing disorder in 2009.

Referring to the suicide, Mr Lord said he believed it was because of “the pain at the thought of me passing away before him. He did not want the emotional burden of seeing me pass away first”.

Mr Lord said on 24th February Mr Fairbrother told him he was going to London the next day to have blood tests. Two days later they spoke on the phone and told “each other that we loved one another”.

But the inquest heard that instead of going to London on 25th February, Mr Fairbrother had in fact checked in to a holiday cottage belonging to the Master Builder’s Hotel.

On the 27th February, at around 11.30am, housekeeper Mark Knight said he was told by staff members they were concerned as he had not checked out.

He went with them to the cottage, and after seeing the note on the bedroom door he opened it. Mr Knight said in a statement that he saw a man in bed and “could clearly hear heavy breathing, or snoring”.

He said: “We tried to wake him by shaking him and shouting ‘Wake up!’.”

They saw three notes left in the room, one of which apologised to the owners of the cottages. He said he phoned an ambulance while receptionist Emily Tasker carried out CPR.

Paramedics arrived and found Mr Fairbrother in cardiac arrest. They tried to resuscitate him but when a doctor arrived within 20 minutes he was certified dead.

A post-mortem examination later revealed that he had an extremely high level of the anti-depressant amitriptyline in his system although no empty packets of the drug were found in the cottage. The inquest heard he had last been prescribed these in 2011.

PC Dawn Pritchard, who was called to the hotel, said she found three notes which were confirmed at the inquest to be in Mr Fairbrother’s handwriting by his sister Sharon who sat wiping away tears throughout.

One was the apology, the second a living will asking not to be resuscitated, and the third a letter to Mr Lord.

Coroner Samantha Marsh said the letter “essentially expressed the love Steven had for Daryl” saying it also revealed an “intention that he would not be seeing Daryl anymore”.

She added: “It really is a declaration of love to Daryl.”

Reaching a conclusion that Mr Fairbrother’s death was suicide, she said she struggled to establish the reason he had for taking his own life, saying: “This case is challenging. There is very little in the way of motive.”

She said the couple were “financially sound” and “lived quit an idyllic life with their little dogs and their friends”.

The coroner added that although Mr Lord said his husband had been suffering from body dysmorphia, there had been no clinical diagnosis.

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or at www.samaritans.org.

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