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Meniere's disease leads Bob Dartnall to take his life at Chestfield and Swalecliffe station

By Gerry Warren

A pensioner struggling with the unbearable effects of a debilitating illness took his own life to end his suffering, an inquest has heard.

Robert Dartnall, 75, was driven to suicide by the symptoms of the incurable Ménière’s disease, which causes severe tinnitus, vertigo and nausea.

An inquest into his death heard he would suffer uncontrollable spinning sensations and constant ringing in his ears, with the condition worsening in recent years.

The scene at Swalecliffe and Chestfield railway station on the day of the tragedy
The scene at Swalecliffe and Chestfield railway station on the day of the tragedy

So unbearable were the effects that the retired financial consultant chose to end his life on March 8 this year at Chestfield and Swalecliffe station, where he was hit by a train.

The hearing in Canterbury was told how his wife of 46 years, Lyn, was out with a walking group on that afternoon. On her way home to Russetts in Chestfield she passed emergency vehicles at the station, commenting to a friend “that doesn’t look good”.

When she reached her house she discovered a suicide note in the kitchen. “I just saw the first two lines, which read ‘I can’t live with this Ménière’s disease and have decided to do something about it’,” she told assistant coroner Ian Goldup.

“I put two and two together and rushed back to the station and into the arms of a policeman who told me it was Bob.”

Mr Dartnall’s son, Darren, told the assistant coroner how badly the illness had affected his father.

Robert Dartnall who suffered with Meniere's disease
Robert Dartnall who suffered with Meniere's disease

“He had uncontrollable spinning sensations and would be sick at night,” he said.

“He couldn’t function properly or lead a normal life. I knew it made him depressed but I wasn’t aware he was feeling suicidal.”

Mr Dartnall had told a hospital specialist treating him that the medication he was taking was making him more depressed and “almost suicidal”.

Police investigated the death and found no suspicious circumstances.

A statement from the train driver was read at the hearing in which he described passing through the station heading towards Herne Bay.

“There was no one else on the platform and I believe it was a deliberate act,” he said.

"He is not the first person to succumb to this terrible illness and will not be the last until a cure is found" - Mr Dartnall’s son, Darren

Concluding the death was a suicide, Mr Goldup said: “From the evidence I have heard, I have no doubt that he took his own life and that was his intention.”

He then offered his sympathy to the family for the “deeply distressing” circumstances.

After the hearing, Darren said his father had been a loving husband and a great dad, describing him as a “larger than life character and truly kind man”.

“He enjoyed life, was successful at work and popular with friends with more than 150 attending his funeral,” he said.

“He had a long, happy life which was sadly marred in his final 10 years by the awful affliction of Ménière’s disease and the accompanying tinnitus.

“He is not the first person to succumb to this terrible illness and will not be the last until a cure is found.”

  • If you are going through a tough time and need to talk to someone call free The Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org

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