Man who hanged himself was paranoid schizophrenic, inquest hears

A man who hanged himself from a bridge in Co Down was a paranoid schizophrenic, an inquest heard today.

Timothy Cheng, 41, had suffered years of mental ill-health and threatened to kill himself a decade earlier, Belfast Coroner's Court heard.

His body was discovered tied to a rope on a flyover bridge in Bangor on the main Belfast to Bangor road last Halloween, October 31. He had suffered a broken spine.

Mr Cheng, who grew up in New York and Connecticut, had been sectioned several times under mental health legislation after he returned to Northern Ireland in 1999 and spent time in hospital in Downpatrick.

He started to become ill at the age of 19 in Connecticut. He once drove 3,000 miles and disappeared for two weeks, the inquest heard.

In 1999, he returned to Northern Ireland and that year threatened to take his own life, his GP confirmed.

However, he moved into a house close to his brother, Charles, in Orlock Gardens on the Kilcooley estate, yards from where he was found hanged. He was discovered by off-duty Detective Sergeant Stuart Griffin, who happened to be walking nearby.

Coroner John Leckey said: "People who take their own lives by hanging, normally there is not injuries of the gross nature of Mr Cheng and perhaps that says something about his mental state and also his determination to make sure he is successful in taking his own life."

A keen guitar player, Mr Cheng did not work but spent a lot of time at the Sports Connection gym in Bangor.

His surrogate mother, Norma Totten, who was married to his father Charlie for 13 years, said he had been in good form the last time she spoke to him.

"He said 'I know you are not my real mum but I love you to bits' and I just said I will see you on Sunday," she said.

His GP confirmed he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, an incurable condition, although he was on a range of drugs to help him, including diazepam. He was also a cannabis user, the inquest heard.

Mr Leckey said sometimes sufferers who were aware of their state took their own lives out of despair at the chronic nature of their illness but Mr Cheng's doctor, Heather Flanagan, said there was no evidence he was feeling suicidal when she last saw him, days before his death.

She said she had asked him about a diazepam stockpile but he had told her it was his brother's.

She told the inquest: "He was in good form, chatting about his guitar lessons. He said 'See you in four weeks'."

Mr Leckey ruled that Mr Cheng had died by his own act while the balance of his mind was disturbed, suffering a fractured spine.

"Timothy was determined to take his own life and some planning had gone into how he proposed to do that," he added.

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