by Emma Brankin
A married City banker leading a secret double life died from hanging during a kinky role play in which he asked two escort girls to execute him, an inquest has heard.
Colin Birch, 44, asked the women to call him "a loser" and to kick away a step ladder he was standing on.
He had told the women he was wearing a safety harness and he wouldn't be suspended above the ground - but unbeknown to them he had attached a rope to a tree and himself.
The inquest heard Birch had researched on the internet 'public hanging and executions that were watched by women'.
Escort girls Alex Sturley, 34, and Marie Laurent were both investigated by police following Birch's death on July 30, 2010, but they were cleared of any blame and neither were charged.
Louise Howard, who runs Katie's Lovelys escort agency, told the inquest at Gravesend, Birch called saying he wanted a play acting session.
He said to her: "I've got another strange little request. I want to meet some girls in the woods and perform an execution."
He laughed when she asked him to explain more detail and he told her: "Don't worry, I've done it before."
He said he had a safety harness like that used by a window cleaner. He said he would have a noose around his neck "for show".
He said the noose wouldn't be attached and he wanted the girls to call him a loser and laugh at him.
He told her it would be "fun".
Birch sent her a text which she passed on to the two escort girls on the job.
The text said: "Just to clarify the role play, I will have noose on just for show. Girls will ask for execution fee. My crime will be being a loser. Girl kicks stool away and laughs and walks back to car without looking back so to show she has no feelings."
Escort girl Alex Sturley, who was paid £30 for the job, said she chatted with Marie Laurent and their driver David Boyer on their way to the woods on Dartford Heath.
They were laughing but felt nervous, she said, and decided they would check the noose wasn't attached when they got there.
Birch, who was wearing a hoodie top, was "calm, cold and showed no emotion", she said.
They walked 50 metres into the woods. There was a step ladder and there was a rope on a tree branch about two metres above ground.
Brunette Alex said she and Marie repeatedly asked Birch to show them his harness and he pulled out a metal loop from the back of his top, which looked like a bungee jump cord.
She asked him if he had the execution money and Birch handed it over.
She asked him if knew why he was being executed and she said to him: "Because you have been a loser in life".
The role play started and Birch spent some time standing on the top of the step ladder.
Alex went up onto the ladder and kissed him on the cheek. She noticed he had tears in his eyes.
Coroner Roger Hatch asked her if she concluded he was getting overwhelmed and Alex replied: "Yes."
Birch handed them black gaffer tape and asked them to bind his hands together but Alex told Birch she was "uncomfortable" doing that.
Birch then showed emotion for the only time. Alex said: "He wasn't happy at all (at her not binding him)."
The girls were shouting 'loser' at him. Alex was going to kick the step ladder away but told Birch: "Sorry, I can't do it."
She turned away but was laughing even though she felt uncomfortable.
They got back to their waiting car but Alex decided to go back to check on Birch.
She said he was "hanging there and was blue in the face".
She said she screamed for help and got up onto the step ladder and tried to hold him up so he wouldn't stay suspended.
Alex noticed there was a metal climbing-style clip secured to the tree branch and the rope was attached to Birch's body under his clothes.
She said she only realised then it wasn't a harness but more likely a cord used to hold him to the tree.
The driver, David Boyer, joined her and helped get Birch to the ground.
They then tried to resuscitate him, including Marie Laurent, who had also got out of the car and joined them.
Mr Boyer dialled 999.
He told the inquest he had met Birch before through the escort agency.
He insisted he also had asked Birch if he was wearing a safety harness when he was on the ladder.
Boyer said: "My impression was that although he would have a rope around his neck he would have a harness on which would allow him to swing but not hang."
Detective Sergeant Lee Neils told the inquest Birch was a married man with two sons. He was made redundant in September 2009 and had difficulty finding a new job.
He had recently applied for a job and had been for a second interview. He was hopeful of landing the job but on the day he died he learnt he had been rejected for it.
DS Neils said: "There was nothing to suggest he intended to take his own life."
But he said the use of a "flimsy bungee cord" which was not attached to Birch in any way that would "conceivably support his weight" led him to believe that he had intended to take his life or had miscalculated details.
Birch's car was parked half a mile away from where he died and he had his car keys on him.
Other bungee cords were found in his car.
He did not leave a suicide note.
He had researched on the internet 'public hanging and executions that were watched by women'.
None of Birch's family were present at the inquest and no statement was read out on their behalf.
Sources said none of Birch's family or friends knew he was seeing escort girls.
Coroner Roger Hatch said: "I am satisfied that there is nothing to suggest that Mr Birch intended to take his own life. For me to record that I have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.
"it is clearly not a case where I can be satisfied. In regards to all the evidence and conclusions reached by the investigation I propose to record an open verdict.
"I express my sympathy to the family."