Student's death may have been accident

A FORMER student of Essex University could have been trying to achieve a near-death experience when he hanged himself, an inquest has been told. Peter Gerrity, 23, was passionate about music and literature but also had an interest in the occult.

A FORMER student of Essex University could have been trying to achieve a near-death experience when he hanged himself, an inquest has been told.

Peter Gerrity, 23, was passionate about music and literature but also had an interest in the occult.

The married father-of-one returned to the university to stay with friends in May last yearbut following an argument he went to the Nightline support service which provided him with a place to stay for the night.

But the following morning Mr Gerrity's body was found by a volunteer in a shower block where he was hanging from a rail with a shower curtain around his neck.


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Luke Impey, a group leader at Nightline, said Mr Gerrity had been coherent when he came into Nightline and “seemed absolutely fine” as they spent time chatting.

However he said half an hour after Mr Gerrity went to bed he got up again and was acting erratically.

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“It was hard to ascertain whether he was complaining about noises in the office or noises in his own head,” he said.

The staff calmed Mr Gerrity down but he was up again later on complaining that there was a gigantic Norwegian rat in his bedroom and had become confrontational.

“We went into the room to reassure him there was nothing in there,” he said.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Gerrity was repeatedly asked whether he had taken drugs but he did not admit it.

But after his death on May 10 tests showed Mr Gerrity, of Campbeltown, Scotland, had 0.32 micrograms of amphetamines in his blood, when the normal levels for recreational use are between 0.05 and 0.15 micrograms.

There were also traces of metabolised cocaine in his urine, meaning the class-A drug had also been taken more than two to three hours before his death.

His brother James Varley said he did not believe Mr Gerrity would have taken his own life if he had not been on drugs.

He suggested it was possible his brother could have been trying to achieve a near death experience and said one of his heroes had been Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the band Joy Division who hanged himself.

“I think Peter has interests in occult subjects…he was interested from a writing point of view.

“He was very enthusiastic about writers and the things they took, it is possible he wanted to experience a thing like his friend who died.

“He was into death and he was into gothic music and things like that.

“He got something inside him and warped his mind and it's put him to his end - I don't think he was really in control of what he was doing.”

His friend, Jacob Ford, spent time with Mr Gerrity on the evening before he died and said he had been upset about not seeing his son although he did not think he was suicidal.

Mr Gerrity's mother, Margaret, said her son's actions had been out of character although she said had once overheard him saying he had taken drugs.

She said her son had an interest in music, Egyptians, and various religions.

“He was usually quite happy go lucky, I would say, he was very enthusiastic about things he studied and things he was into.”

Mr Gerrity started a BA course on English and American Literature at the university in October 2000 but left the following year.

Essex Assistant Deputy Coroner Chinyere Inyama recorded a verdict stating Mr Gerrity had “taken his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed”.

After the inquest, Essex University spokeswoman Jenny Grinter, said procedures at Nightline had been reviewed to ensure nobody was left alone overnight if they showed similar signs of distress and staff at Nightline would now seek professional advice in similar situations.

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