A DEPRESSED businessman killed himself by lying in front of a train, an inquest jury has ruled — despite his grieving family claiming his death was a tragic accident.
Farmer and property developer Ho Sanderson died from multiple injuries caused by the impact of the inter-city express, which hit him at the Felton Lane level-crossing on March 8 last year.
Witnesses told how the 60-year-old, who lived at Eshott Hall, was seen pushing his bike beneath the railway barriers before ‘calmly laying down’ his cycle and then getting down beside it. Seconds later the train hit him.
His death came a year after an incident near the family home, in which he suffered serious facial injuries caused by a shotgun blast.
His family claimed it was also an accident, which happened as he was trying to shoot a fox.
But evidence was heard that a life-insurance policy, worth £4.2million at the time of his death, was due to diminish by more than £1million the following day.
It was also revealed that Mr Sanderson’s business empire was experiencing severe financial difficulties, which eventually saw the loss of Eshott Hall in mid-2009 and a number of his companies taken into administration.
Train driver Christopher Barrie told coroner Tony Brown he saw Mr Sanderson on the tracks just seconds before the impact.
He said: “Before Felton Lane level crossing, the speed limit is 110mph on the long straight. My speed was 100mph. I was then aware of a person on the line with a pedal cycle. I thought it was a child. I first thought they had been trapped inside the barriers, but I can remember him put down the bike and lay down on the track beside it.
“I was sounding the horn all the time and applied the brakes, but it was impossible to stop in time at that distance. I hit both the person and the pedal cycle at about 90mph. It was about seven seconds from the time I saw him until the impact.”
Mr Barrie said it took quarter of a mile to bring the train to a complete halt. He was left deeply traumatised by the incident.
David Dallard, who was immediately behind Mr Sanderson at the level crossing, also told how he went under the barrier before laying down the bike.
While he couldn’t say whether Mr Sanderson stumbled or lay down, as suggested by the Sanderson family’s barrister Michael James, he added: “He made no attempt to get up.”
Robert Moxon-Browne QC, representing life assurance company Jubilee, said it was clear that Mr Sanderson had intended to take his own life.
The March 2009 shooting, he said, happened on the day Mr Sanderson was due to appear in court over alleged breaches of planning conditions at his Hartford Hall housing development near Bedlington.
He said that by March 2010, Mr Sanderson ‘knew the game was up’ after financial problems resulted in his companies going into administration in July 2009.
But Mr Sanderson’s son David said there was no indication that his father had been depressed, including medical reports and psychological evaluations carried out in the wake of the 2009 shooting.
He said: “I had no reason or suspicion to believe that my father was suicidal.”
Delivering a verdict of suicide, the foreman of the jury said: “Mr Sanderson killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed.”