Scientist's drugs and drink suicide

A RETIRED chief biomedical scientist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield killed himself with a combination of drink and drugs, including a substance he used in his job more than 10 years ago.

Robert 'Tony' Buxton, aged 63, of Barncliffe Crescent, Lodge Moor, was found dead near Redmires reservoir last August.

Next to him was an empty bottle of sodium barbitol, a powder used in laboratories when carrying out muscle biopsies, with a handwritten label by Mr Buxton. There were also tablets and a half-empty vodka bottle at the scene.

On Monday pathologist Dr Christopher Milroy said the cause of death was drug and alcohol toxicity and assistant deputy coroner Donald Coutts-Wood recorded a verdict that Mr Buxton took his own life.

Mr Buxton worked in the neuro-pathology department at the Royal Hallamshire until it closed in the mid-Nineties.

Susan Porter, a former colleague, said although sodium barbitol was still used in her line of work, more rigorous health and safety procedures now governed its storage.

She said: "They are monitored much more closely now but in those days he would have had ready access to that – it was just kept on the shelf."

The inquest heard guidelines on the control of substances hazardous to health now state it must be kept in a locked cupboard and a record kept of when and how much is used by staff members, who must also wear protective clothing when working with it.

GP records showed Mr Buxton, a talented artist who liked to paint VW cars, had suffered with depression in the Nineties but on his last doctor's appointment on July 11 he seemed happy.

At the time he was not on anti-depressants and had never been prescribed barbitol by his doctor – which can also be used as a sedative or hypnotic.

But Hazel Holden, Mr Buxton's partner of 18 years, told the inquest "with hindsight" she noticed the night before he went missing from their home he was making preparations for the following day.

She said he decided not to attend his art group – something he never missed – and added: "I think he had made his mind up what he was doing and he was spending his last evening with me."

His body was found in a clearing in dense woodland near Redmires reservoir. A note to Ms Holden was found in his shirt pocket.

After the hearing Ms Holden said he was a man who loved his hobbies which included boat building and painting and added: "He was the most kind, generous, wonderful man."