Music teacher hangs himself after getting sacked for drinking too much at a rugby dinner

December 21, 2012 | by | 0 Comments
Music teacher Paul McCaffrey killed himself after getting sacked

Music teacher Paul McCaffrey killed himself after getting sacked

A music teacher hanged himself in the grounds of the exclusive boarding school which was his “life” after he was sacked for drinking too much at a rugby dinner.

Paul McCaffery, 46, was found dead by maintenance staff at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk, where he had taught for 20 years, on March 29.

An inquest into his death held at the IP-City centre in Ipswich, Suffolk, heard the teacher had been sacked from the £24,000-a-year school in January for an “alcohol-related issue.”

Mr McCaffery, whose life centred around his role as sssistant director of music, appealed against his dismissal but the headteacher at the time, Howard Blackett, upheld the decision.

The teacher was given notice to leave his staff house by the end of the Easter holidays but was found dead just weeks before he was due to move.

Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said concerns were reported to Mr McCaffery’s brother when the teacher was heard talking about “suicide.”

But no-one had told his relatives the teacher had been prescribed betablockers by the school doctor to calm panic attacks he was suffering.

Mr McCaffery’s family complained today that more could have been done to stop the vulnerable teacher taking his own life.

Recording a verdict of suicide on Thursday, Dr Dean told the inquest: “Concerns were raised about his response to losing his job, which was a very significant part of his life, and it is clear that losing his job meant losing his home.”

The inquest heard close friend and former deputy headteacher Ed Smitheram had called round to Mr McCaffery’s house on March 28 but could not get in.

The school’s maintenance staff were contacted and entered the house the next morning where they found him dead on the staircase, in his staff accommodation, West House.

The Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk, where Paul had taught for 20 years

The Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk, where Paul had taught for 20 years

A post-mortem examination found the cause of death to be compression of neck structures. Toxicology tests also found a raised alcohol level.

Mr McCaffery, regarded as a brilliant musician and organist – who played the organ for the morning chapel service at the school – disappeared for a week between January 17 and 23.

Police later confirmed he had been found safe and well in Newcastle.

The inquest heard that an assessment carried out by a mental health crisis team in February, had not find Mr McCaffery to be at risk of suicide.

However, Dr Dean said Mr McCaffery had been complaining of anxiety attacks several months earlier and was prescribed beta-blockers by the school’s doctor.

Mr McCaffery’s family had complained they had not been alerted to the growing issues with the troubled teacher following his death.

But the coroner said they may not have been able to help him.

Dr Dean said: “The family said had they known more they would have taken further steps.

“We can’t be certain that even if they had all the information this tragedy could have been averted.

“The school went through a process they felt they had to go through.

“They shared some information but some things they couldn’t share because of patient confidentiality.

“It was a difficult decision for the school to take about a valuable member of staff.

“It does appear beyond reasonable doubt, Paul intended the consequences of his actions and I record a verdict that Paul McCaffery took his own life.”

The coroner ended the inquest by saying he would write to the school to stress the need to look at all aspects of vulnerability in the decision-making processes.

He said: “Clearly it was a hard decision for the school but we need to raise the awareness – that is not to imply any liability on the school’s part.”

Following the inquest, Mr McCaffery’s brother Philip said there were still questions that need to be answered.

The grieving relative said he would be seeking a meeting with the school’s trustees, Greenwich Hospital.

Philip McCaffery said: “I think Paul’s death could have been averted. If I had all the information to hand I don’t think Paul would be dead now.

“The school had pre-conceived ideas about Paul having drinking problems which clouded his dismissal.

“I’m disappointed nobody from the school apart from the doctor attended today. There’s a big void of answers the family is still seeking.

“Looking back, he didn’t have a drink problem, he had mental health issues.

“The school could have kept the family better informed without breaking patient confidentiality.

“I want the school to apologise and admit more could have been done.

“He was a larger-than-life character and loved by so many, including parents and pupils.

“He has helped so many people to achieve their goals, not just in music but in life.”

Philip said his brother’s dismissal was alleged to have centred around an incident at a school rugby dinner last December.

The Royal Hospital School is a co-educational fee-paying school for day pupils and boarders set in picturesque countryside near the River Stour

The school has so far been unavailable for comment.

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