Death of Portsmouth dockyard worker Alan Stafford who ‘fell’ off Wightlink ferry is ruled as suicide

A MUCH-LOVED port operator who battled ‘depression’ after splitting up with the ‘light of his life’ died after deliberately jumping from a Wightlink ferry, an inquest has heard.

Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 8:36 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:44 pm
Alan Stafford, 58, from Southsea

Coroner David Horsley made the conclusion this morning as loved ones of BAE Systems crane driver Alan Stafford united side-by-side for his inquest in Portsmouth.

The 58-year-old’s body was found in the Solent a quarter-of-a-mile from Gilkicker Fort on September 4, 2018 – days after a man ‘fell’ from Wightlink’s St Cecilia ferry on August 30.

Police later identified him to be the missing man after a bank card found in his wallet when he was recovered matched details used to purchase a ferry ticket on the day. 

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Alan has been described as a a 'lovely' man in tributes paid by his family

A post-mortem confirmed Alan drowned and a medical report read aloud this morning told how he had previously been prescribed anti-depressants in 2002.

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Family's tributes to '˜lovely' Big Al who died after falling from Wightlink ferr...

Mr Horsley said: ‘Although he has never formally been diagnosed with depression, I think he was suffering from depression – long-standing depression.

‘The way I want to answer the question is to say he took his own life.’

One of Alan’s five sisters, Katherine Upsall, said her brother struggled after coming out as gay as a child – but was hit hard after going through a divorce more recently.

‘When you are a child and you are gay you can't talk to anybody,' she said. 

‘He had a few relationships, then he met [his partner] – the light of his life – and they were together for 25 years.

‘Then he left him for a woman and I do not think he ever got over it.’ 

At least two witnesses saw Alan jump overboard the Wightlink service in August. 

One, 43-year-old Victor Thanayagam from Southsea, told the court he had been on the same ferry about to embark on a family holiday, a day after his wedding anniversary. 

He said: ‘My wife and everybody was screaming. It was very, very fast.’ 

The other was a Dutch tourist, Jan Hutton, who went home on the day of the incident. 

Detective Sergeant Marcus Mills said Alan did not go to work on the day he jumped and a police search of his Southsea home found two mobile phones and an iPad. 

A message sent by Alan on one device read: ‘Hi buddy, whatever happens this is nothing to do with us. You are a great lad... Have a great life xx.’ 

Speaking outside Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, Alan’s sisters described their brother as a ‘best friend to everybody’  who was ‘outwardly really happy’. 

They heaped praise on to the emergency services who have supported their family. 

‘I can’t believe what they have done for us. They would’ve made [Alan] proud,' they said. 

A memorial bench has been dedicated to Alan in the dockyard.