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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Hengist owner Paul Smith took his own life amid mounting debts at Aylesford High Street restaurant

07 December 2013
by Anna Young
Paul Smith was found hanged at home

Paul Smith was found hanged at home

A depressed restaurant owner was facing bankruptcy when he took his own life, an inquest heard.

Paul Smith was found hanged at his Aylesford home the day after he took his girlfriend to a viewpoint and promised her he would get his life under control.

Coroner Patricia Harding heard how the 42-year-old, of Rochester Road, was taking medication for mood swings and had financial worries, in particular about The Hengist in the village high street.

The restaurant, which he opened with celebrity chef Richard Phillips, closed after its owner's sudden death and has since been sold at auction.

His friend Robert Cater told the inquest: "He was struggling big time with The Hengist. It wasn't making ends meet.

"He would be the life and soul of the party, but in the week he wouldn't answer the phone. His mood would be very, very high and then very, very low."

The pair had arranged a bike ride on the morning of Sunday, September 1, but Mr Smith - who previously owned Regal Estates - did not answer the door or calls, which was not unusual if he was feeling down.

Mr Cater later forced his way in and discovered his friend's body.

DS Ian McCarthey said "hundreds and hundreds of opened letters" were found at the property, including correspondence from banks claiming Mr Smith had missed mortgage repayments.

The inquest heard a letter about the looming bankruptcy was found on a bar next to an empty bottle of vodka.

A toxicology report showed the director was "severely intoxicated" when he died and a low level of cocaine was found in his blood.

Paul Smith, left, with celebrity chef Richard Phillips

Paul Smith, left, with celebrity chef Richard Phillips at the restaurant opening in 2005

Mr Smith was last known to be alive when he sent drunken messages to Emma Reynolds, his girlfriend of 18 months, at about 12.30am on the day he was found.

They had reconciled the day before his death after an argument.

Miss Reynolds said: "We went to the lookout point on Blue Bell Hill. He said 'I will get control of this. I know I need help and I'm willing to do that'."

She confirmed Mr Smith overdosed on medication about a year ago, but called for help.

Mrs Harding recorded that Mr Smith took his own life, giving the medical cause as suspension.

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