Elliott Johnson searched internet for ways to kill himself, inquest hears

Tom Osborne, the senior coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, told the inquest he was not tasked with “apportioning blame”. The hearing continues.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Elliott Johnson searched internet for ways to kill himself, inquest hears” was written by Jamie Grierson, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 31st May 2016 11.15 UTC

Political activist Elliott Johnson started searching online for methods to kill himself on the day of an alleged altercation in a pub with the Conservative election aide Mark Clarke, an inquest has heard.

Johnson, 21, was found on railway tracks on 15 September last year. He left three letters, one of which said Clarke, a former parliamentary candidate, had bullied him and that a political journalist, Andre Walker, had betrayed him.

DCI Sam Blackburn, who took over the investigation into Johnson’s death, told the inquest at Ampthill coroner’s court that he looked on the internet for suicide methods from 12 August until the night before his death.

The inquest heard on Friday that on this date Johnson alleged that he had been accosted by Clarke in the Marquis of Granby, a pub in Westminster. The hearing was also told that he would later complain to Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) about Clarke, saying he had threatened to destroy Johnson’s career with the Tories and in political journalism.

Blackburn was asked to read Johnson’s letters at the inquest , which was also attended by Johnson’s parents, Ray and Alison. Three letters were left – one addressed to his parents, another to “bullies and betrayers” and one more to “friends and allies”.

In the letter addressed to his parents, he wrote: “I have also been involved in a huge political issue. I have been bullied by Mark Clarke and betrayed by Andre Walker. I had to wrongly turn my back on my friends. Now all my political bridges are burnt.

“Where can I even go from here. If only I had done the right thing in my heart first and not been caught up in the fake idea of a rightwing movement. But that is that.”

The inquest heard Johnson was made redundant from his full-time role at the rightwing pressure group Conservative Way Forward (CWF) shortly after he complained about the altercation in the pub.

Johnson was given a “redundancy consultation” note that said: “Further to your email exchange with our HR consultant, I was asked to review our operational requirements to establish your ways to limit your exposure to an external individual following an incident you described which occurred on 12 August 2015.”

Being questioned by the Johnson family’s solicitor, Heather Williams, Blackburn accepted there was a link between the redundancy consultation letter and the incident between Clarke and Johnson.

But the formal police statement concluded the two were not linked and that Johnson was made redundant for financial reasons, the inquest heard.

Johnson recorded a meeting between himself, Clarke and Walker, in which Johnson is heard demanding an apology from Clarke, the inquest heard.

Clarke is heard admitting that he spoke to CWF about a caution he believed Johnson had received for an electoral offence. It has since been established Johnson did not receive a caution.

“I’m here for an apology, Mark, I’m not here for anything else,” Johnson is heard as saying. “That’s not going to happen,” Clarke replies.

Clarke is then heard showing interest in the complaint made against him and what actions Johnson was taking to withdraw it. Johnson ultimately met Simon Mort, a CCHQ staffer who handled complaints, and did not pursue it any further.

On the night before Johnson died, the last person he spoke to was Alexandra Paterson, the then chair of youth group Conservative Future. Paterson was pursuing her own complaint against Clarke at the time, Williams said. Johnson was concerned she was no longer speaking to him, and one reason for that might be his decision to drop the complaint against Clarke, the inquest heard.

The cause of death was given as severe traumatic head injuries. The pathologist who conducted a postmortem said the injuries were consistent with being run over by a train.

Johnson had booked his train ticket at 11.24am on the day he died and was seen boarding a train on platform 10 at King’s Cross station in London at 3.22pm. He was seen leaving the train at 4.11pm at Sandy station in Bedfordshire.

He was found about a kilometre north of the station and is believed to have got on to the tracks through a Network Rail access point. A blue towel, brown bag containing a jacket and other belongings, as well as a silver hip flask were found next to his body.

Blackburn said the police investigated criminal liability but found no third-party involvement in Johnson’s death.

Tom Osborne, the senior coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, told the inquest he was not tasked with “apportioning blame”. The hearing continues.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

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