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Much-loved Herne Bay magician was wracked by guilt over debts

A popular magician was ravaged by guilt and anxiety in the days leading to his death after borrowing money from loved ones to fuel his gambling addiction.

An inquest in Maidstone this week heard how Martin Collins, who grew up in Canterbury, had been lent thousands of pounds to fund the habit, before kicking it last year.

Martin Collins was tragically found dead in Herne Bay earlier this year
Martin Collins was tragically found dead in Herne Bay earlier this year

The 46-year-old, whose stage name was The Kent Magician, had also stopped taking cocaine in April – but was plagued by poor sleep, a lack of confidence and “feelings of worthlessness”.

His body was discovered early on June 25 in Herne Bay Cemetery – where his father is buried – by emergency services, after concerns were raised by family members the day before.

Sister Zoe Gower told the hearing: “Martin was cheerful and kind. He had time for everyone.

“But he was a sensitive man and had suffered from depression for years. He had a mask to cover it.

“During lockdown he developed Covid and had been in hospital. He was anxious about lockdown easing.

“He was in emotional pain. He stopped showering, shaving and sleeping because he had so many negative thoughts.”

Martin was seen by mental health specialists earlier that month after he was discovered by police inside his car intoxicated and with thoughts of ending his own life.

During the first of the sessions in King’s Road, he told experts of his large debts and how he did not want to leave his Streetfield home.

The entertainer, who performed across Kent, was also said to have been anxious about the number of weddings he was booked for after restrictions eased.

In a statement read to the court, specialist Paul Roberts noted: “Martin said he had significant debts and suffered abuse when he was younger.

Martin wowed crowds with his card tricks
Martin wowed crowds with his card tricks

“He spoke of his immense dislike for himself and how he deceived people to fund his gambling addiction. The feelings were becoming overwhelming.

“He was worried about people in Herne Bay talking about him borrowing money from friends and family to fund his addictions.”

But following the appointments, he was categorised as low risk because, among other things, he displayed “futuristic thinking”.

And during the final meeting on June 22, Martin was also speaking of “brushing up on his magic skills” and continued narcotics support.

“He said the thoughts to end his life were still there, but he would not do anything,” Mr Roberts added.

“During the meeting, there was no evidence of disturbances. There was no evidence of paranoid ideation.

“He continued to report a low mood, sadness and shame.

“He had the full support of his family and friends. Martin’s brother reported that he felt there had been improvements.”

Following his disappearance, the doting dad’s family discovered he had left them worrying video messages.

His loved ones scoured Herne Bay Cemetery late on June 24 – with Ms Gower believing they had come within metres of him.

Martin Collins performing magic in 2015
Martin Collins performing magic in 2015

“I called police around 8.30pm to report him missing,” Ms Gower recounted.

“They located Martin’s car at the cemetery where our dad is.

“We were all looking for him at the cemetery. It was dark by then. We must have been two metres away from him at one point.

“The first thing [my brother] Leon had seen was the video Martin had recorded to say he was sorry.

“He looked tired. Martin did this two days before his first wedding booking. He was really suffering.”

"He was a lovable man; warm and friendly. He was one of those all-round top blokes..."

His body was later found by patrols at 5.30am.

Detectives confirmed there were no signs of third-party involvement, deciding not to treat Martin’s death as suspicious.

Post-mortem examinations revealed his cause of death to be blood loss. Tests also showed alcohol and drugs were not in his system.

Recording the death as a suicide, assistant coroner Catherine Wood described the illusionist as an “articulate and intelligent man”.

“It appeared he had some problems with gambling and cocaine addiction, but it seemed like he was somebody who was very supportive of others,” she added.

Martin during his time at Herne Bay FC
Martin during his time at Herne Bay FC

“Toxicology results showed he had not started taking any illicit substances again. Things must have got to the stage where it was too much for him.

“He had left messages indicating his intention to end his life to his family.”

Born in Wiltshire, Martin grew up in Canterbury before moving to Herne Bay at the age of 15.

The former Chaucer schoolboy played as a centre-back for the town’s football club for more than a decade, first representing the senior team in his teens.

He also ran out for rivals Whitstable FC for a couple of seasons – but pals say he will be best-known for his successful stint in the Bay.

Martin also worked as a youth worker helping dozens of children in Herne Bay and London.

Long-time friend Glenn Huggett told KentOnline in June: “Martin became a defensive legend for Herne Bay.

“He was a lovable man; warm and friendly. He had time for everyone. He was one of those all-round top blokes.”

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time or click here to visit the website.

For more information on how we can report on inquests, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Herne Bay

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