A POLICE officer struggled with stresses at work and a number of family deaths before he died, an inquest has heard.

Richard Hooley served as a family liaison officer and in the road traffic collisions unit for Cheshire Police. He was well thought of and was given a posthumous award for his work earlier this year.

Warrington Coroner’s Court heard that on September 26 last year he drove to the Thelwall Viaduct and ended his life.

Coroner Alan Moore, 50, said Mr Hooley had been ‘blighted by unexpected deaths in his family’ and that grief ‘characterised his attitude to life’.

Eye witnesses who were driving along the M6 at the time gave statements to the court yesterday, Wednesday.

Antonia McGann saw Mr Hooley in his final moments.

She said: “I saw a white car pull over and a man got out.

“It was a matter of seconds between him leaving the car and jumping from the bridge.”

Mr Hooley’s body was found a short time later by PC Brian Pritchard and paramedics confirmed his death at 9.51am.

DI Hannah Friend was on duty and attended the scene.

In a statement she said she was ‘saddened’ to be able to identify the man as her colleague PC Richard Hooley.

No note was found.

A toxicology report found no traces of alcohol or drugs in Mr Hooley’s system and a post mortem examination confirmed he died of an extensive head injury with multiple bone fractures.

The court heard how Mr Hooley had visited his GP in Middlewich in the months leading up to his death and said he felt some stress that was affecting his work. He was given a sick note for work and he started counselling.

Reduced hours appeared to help Mr Hooley with his stress but his counsellor, Fiona Damm, concluded in his session that he had moderate to severe depression and severe anxiety, the court heard.

PC Hooley told Ms Damm that others saw him as a ‘good egg’ but that the death of his sister had affected him badly.

Having lost 19 family members since a child, Ms Damm stated he appeared a ‘bystander in his life’ and there was ‘much more despair and trauma under the surface than he opened up about’.

During his last visit to the GP he said he was feeling a lot better in himself and had resumed his normal work duties.

Coroner Alan Moore concluded his death was by suicide and offered his condolences to Richard’s family and friends.

Moore added: “He did a sterling job as a family liaison officer as seen in this court room many times in that capacity.”