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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

First Minister 'fuelled despair' of Carl Sargeant in TV interviews, inquest told

Written by Eleanor Barlow

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones "fuelled the despair" of a Labour party colleague accused of sexual misconduct when he gave television interviews the day before his death, his inquest has been told.

Welsh Assembly member Carl Sargeant, 49, was found hanged at the family home in Connah's Quay, North Wales, by his wife Bernadette on November 7 last year, four days after he was sacked from his role as cabinet secretary for communities and children.

The father-of-two was also suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of "unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping".

On Monday, former Welsh Government minister Leighton Andrews told the inquest into Mr Sargeant's death that interviews given by First Minister Jones about the cabinet reshuffle on November 6 had affected Mr Sargeant.

He said: "They had a significant impact on his state of mind.

"I was told they had fuelled his despair."

He said he did not understand why Mr Jones had given the "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" TV interviews after the matter had been handed to the Labour Party for formal investigation.

Mr Andrews said in his interviews the First Minister, who is due to give evidence to the inquest on Wednesday, referred to "incidents" rather than allegations.

He told the inquest he and Mr Sargeant had worked together on Mr Jones's leadership campaign in 2009 and he had been a "key element" in helping to get him elected.

But he said he thought Mr Sargeant had begun to feel under pressure.

He said: "I was aware Carl felt overly policed by the First Minister's office."

Mr Sargeant's former special adviser Sophie Howe, now Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, said on the day Mr Sargeant found out he had lost his cabinet role he rang her and said: "I'm out and it's really bad."

When she later went to pick him up in Cardiff he looked "ashen" and told her "I don't know what's going on, I haven't been told what the allegations are", she said.

Mrs Howe, who was in tears at times during her evidence, told the court she was concerned about Mr Sargeant on the morning of his death and when she spoke to him over the phone he initially sounded "spaced out".

In their final conversation she spoke to him about contacting the Labour Party and he told her: "I'm going to have a think about what I'm going to do."

The inquest, at Ruthin County Hall, heard that Mr Sargeant had first gone to his GP with symptoms of depression in 2012, following an event involving a family member, and was prescribed anti-depressants.

In July 2016 he returned to the doctor with symptoms of depression and was again given medication, which he continued to be prescribed up until his death.

Coroner for North Wales (East and Central) John Gittins read a statement from police constable Siwan Hughes, who was called to Mr Sargeant's home after paramedics certified him dead at 11.30am on November 7, 2017.

Pc Hughes said Mrs Sargeant told police she had found a note on the door of the utility room, where Mr Sargeant was found, telling her not to go in and to call the police.

Another note, left next to his body, was addressed to his wife, children and family and friends, the court heard.

In it, he apologised for letting them down and said they did not deserve "adverse publicity" because of his acts.

Family members including his wife, who is expected to give evidence later this week, and son Jack, who replaced his father as Alyn and Deeside Assembly Member (AM), were at the hearing.

Mr Gittins said the inquest would be a "full and fair examination" of relevant matters and would not be a "trial by press, politics or personality".

An independent investigation by the Welsh government, ordered by the first minister, has stalled due to Mr Sargeant's family being granted a judicial review over how it will operate.

The inquest is expected to last until Friday.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.