Coroner’s call for ‘clarity’ after gun death

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A CORONER has said there needs to be a “robust dialogue” about firearm licence applications after a depressed man shot himself, an inquest heard.

Matthew Taffs, 41, from Station Road, Dersingham, was found dead in his home on April 29 – the day of the Royal Wedding.

Yesterday’s hearing, at Lynn County Court, was told the self-employed roofing contractor had held a shotgun licence for some 10 years, which had been renewed for a further five years in December 2007.

But the inquest also heard Mr Taffs had been diagnosed with anxiety in 1990, depression some years later, had attended five private counselling sessions last year and was taking anti-depressants.

He also had a long-standing problem with alcohol abuse, according to Norfolk coroner, William Armstrong, who added Mr Taffs had filled in the shotgun renewal form “incorrectly”.

The inquest heard that Mr Taffs, who enjoyed clay pigeon shooting, had not indicated any mental health problems in response to two specific questions about the applicant.

Mr Armstrong said: “Where the applicant says ‘No’ to that information then unless it is obvious to the person concerned no attempt is made to contact that person’s doctor.

“That, in my judgement, is not a satisfactory situation.

“There is a need for clarity to be injected into this process.

“There is a link of incidents of suicide and ready accessibility to the means of taking life.

“There does need to be a robust dialogue between the police, the medical profession and the Government.”

But the coroner said he had no criticism of Mr Taffs’ doctor or the police, who issued the licences.

Giving evidence, Steven Attoe, a firearms licensing officer for the police who was in charge of renewing Mr Taffs’ licence, said the pair went to the same clay pigeon shooting venues.

He added: “I never had any idea he was in his condition.”

Mr Taffs’ widow, Rachel, said her husband was “loving”, as well as being “the life and soul of the party”, when he was not drinking.

But when he was under the influence of alcohol, Mrs Taffs said her husband “behaved out of character”.

At the end of the hearing, Mr Armstrong added the 41-year-old had two sides to his personality.

In August last year Mr Taffs became aggressive after having a drink and walked out of his house with a shotgun.

His wife managed to get the weapon off him and their friends and family managed to calm him down.

Speaking about the day before Mr Taffs’ body was discovered, Mrs Taffs said he was drunk in his office when she arrived home from work at 5pm.

She said: “I cooked dinner and we just had a normal tea and he carried on drinking. He went up to the shop and got more drink, which I wasn’t very happy about.”

Mrs Taffs added she went to bed at 11pm, while her husband listened to loud music.

After Mr Taffs became “agitated” she said she drove to her sister’s home in Downham and turned her mobile phone off.

The couple were due to watch the Royal Wedding with friends the following day, but Mrs Taffs told the hearing when she returned to Dersingham in the morning the door was locked from the inside.

She saw him slumped in a chair with a shotgun between his legs, through the dining room doors.

Mr Armstrong recorded a verdict of suicide whilst suffering from depression.

o See also ‘man found dead in his home’ to the right of this story.