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Herne Bay: Death of Derek Kendall, found in Reculver's St Mary's Church, ruled as suicide

By Katie Davis

A prison officer suffering from stress shot himself dead near his mother's grave, an inquest has heard.

The body of Derek Kendall was found in a churchyard by a father and his son at St Mary's in Reculver, near Herne Bay.

A shotgun was found beside the 53-year-old, just yards from the spot where his mother was laid to rest.

Derek Kendall (2414811)
Derek Kendall (2414811)

Although born in Herne Bay, Mr Kendall lived in Norfolk, but shortly before his death had travelled back to Kent, where he had family connections.

An inquest into his death was today told he had been signed off work.

He had been suffering from stress and depression, said to be caused by divorce proceedings and his job. He had been separated from his estranged wife for nine years.

Daughter Rebecca Kendall said it had been a lengthy and drawn-out process.

"The divorce was not a shock," she said. "It was a long-time coming and was very long and drawn-out."

Miss Kendall, 26, said her father was shipped off to the army at a young age and did not get on well with his parents.

It was on March 10 that police received a report of a man found lying on his back in the Reculver churchyard shortly before 10am.

PC Jamie Couch said: "A male was laying on his back on a grave with a gun next to him.
"Paramedics were already in attendance. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

Mr Kendall's friend of seven years, Suzanne Pugh, said he had shown no signs that he would take his own life, but was in no doubt that he had.

She said: "Very surprised is an understatement. It was so out of character.

"A couple of weeks before, he had spoken to me about how he couldn't really cope with the divorce and going back to work - but he didn't dwell on it."

Ms Pugh had met Mr Kendall when he came into her barber's shop several years ago.

"We became the best of friends," she added.

"We used to go for dinner together, and out on our motorbikes - he was great company."

The pair had last met two days before Mr Kendall's death.

"I love him and I'll miss him. He was my hero" - Rebecca Kendall

Ms Pugh said: "He came round and he was happy. We were just having a normal evening really, he was really chatty."

A shotgun holder, Mr Kendall often went to clay pigeon shooting clubs, according to Ms Pugh.

She said: "I knew he owned a shotgun. He used to do a lot of clay shooting clubs and deer stalks.

"He was experienced in the use of guns."

Speaking in tribute to her father, Miss Kendall said: "I love him and I'll miss him. He was my hero."

Mr Kendall also had three step-children and an estranged brother.

Sitting at Canterbury Coroners' Court, assistant coroner Ian Goldup accepted the evidence given and ruled that Mr Kendall's death was a suicide.

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