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'I need help': Depressed farmer commited suicide with shotgun

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A farmer from near the Shropshire border shot himself when fears of losing his livelihood drove him to depression, an inquest heard.

David Fletcher, 59, told a neighbour: "I need help" and "There isn't going to be any farm" before taking his own life with a double-barrelled shotgun at his farmhouse in Enville.

An inquest was held as senior figures in the farming industry warned farmers were being pushed to breaking point by financial pressures.

Farmers are almost three times as likely to commit suicide than the average UK citizen, according to the Farming Community Network.

A neighbour of Mr Fletcher, Mark Henderson, was praised for attempting to take the gun from the farmer.

It is believed Mr Fletcher had financial concerns and was worried about the threat of TB among his cattle herd at Herons Gate Farm.

Neighbours of the farmer said tests after his death proved that his livestock were clear of the disease.

Mr Henderson attempted to take the gun from Mr Fletcher after he fired it at his car. He was commended for his bravery by West Mercia Police and the coroner.

He told the inquest that he came across Mr Fletcher when his truck was blocking a lane early on July 10.

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He asked if he was alright and Mr Fletcher relied: "No I need help," before reaching for his 12-bore shotgun and firing at the back of Mr Henderson's car.

Mr Henderson got out of the car and approached Mr Fletcher who shot another cartridge into nearby trees. He then attempted to take his own life, but the gun was not loaded.

The inquest heard Mr Fletcher walked into his house, saying: "There isn't going to be any farm."

Mr Henderson checked the farmer's pockets for new cartridges but did not find any and went to call police.

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A neighbour, Chris Nott, arrived to help, but both men heard a gunshot from inside the house.

Firearms officers from West Mercia Police found Mr Fletcher dead with a gunshot wound to his head.

The inquest, which recorded a verdict of suicide, was told Mr Fletcher had been suffering from depression.

Charles Smith, chief executive of Farming Community Network today said farmers are facing mounting pressures including bovine TB, volatile milk prices and extreme weather.

He said: "It is a big problem. Farmers' tough breeding means they could be more reluctant to talk about their worries for fear of appearing weak."

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