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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Welsh First Minister 'furious' at Carl Sargeant going public over sexual misconduct sacking

Written by Pat Hurst

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was "f****** furious" when a Labour colleague went public about being sacked over allegations of sexual misconduct days before he apparently took his own life, an inquest has heard.

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 by Mr Jones.

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

A note Mr Sargeant left next to his body, addressed to his wife, children and family and friends, apologised for letting them down and said they did not deserve "adverse publicity" because of his actions.

On the second day of the inquest at Ruthin County Hall into Mr Sargeant's death, the coroner heard evidence that the politician had been told not to speak about the reasons for his sacking in the Welsh Government cabinet reshuffle.

But after being relieved of his government job, Mr Sargeant had tweeted about the allegations against him and vowed to clear his name.

The inquest was read a statement from Mr Sargeant's friend, Stephen Jones, a former researcher and special adviser, detailing the day of his sacking and afterwards.

Mr Jones's statement said that, on Friday November 3 last year, he received a text message from a friend saying Mr Sargeant had been sacked, and shortly afterwards got a text from Mr Sargeant himself with the single word "Speak" - suggesting he wanted to talk.

Mr Jones said he was occupied at a family wedding at the time and shortly after the first text received a second one from Mr Sargeant which read: "Bad shit."

The two men then spoke on the phone, the inquest heard.

Mr Jones's statement said: "Carl then rang me. He had been sacked from the government because of allegations relating to inappropriate conduct made against him by women.

"He told me he did not know what the allegations were about, nor who they had been made by."

In a second call Mr Jones said Mr Sargeant had told him: "Carwyn told him not to go public about his sacking, they would handle it over the weekend."

Mr Jones (pictured) asked his friend if there was "any truth" in the allegations.

His statement continued: "He said quite emphatically 'No.' He said he did not know what he, Carwyn, was alleging."

Mr Jones's statement said the day after Mr Sargeant's death he had a conversation with Ken Skates, a Welsh Assembly Member, about the First Minister's reaction to Mr Sargeant speaking publicly about the reasons for his sacking.

Mr Jones's statement read: "Ken said he, Carwyn Jones, was f****** furious."

Coroner for North Wales (East and Central) John Gittins told the court he had received an email from Mr Skates in which he said he had seen Mr Jones's statement and that he had been named and quoted, and he was "concerned about the accuracy".

In a statement from Mr Skates read to the hearing, he said he was a colleague and friend of Mr Sargeant.

It went on: "I had a sense there was something wrong with his mental health for years. I had worked out from the way he was acting that he was struggling.

"Carl started asking me more and more about dealing with mental health issues. I came to believe Carl's emotional health was not right.

"He told me he had taken up knitting as a form of mindfulness.

"From working with Carl, I believe Carl had been struggling mentally for a long time before his death and had not been able to resolve his issues."

Imelda Francombe, Mr Sargeant's senior private secretary for 18 months before his death, was called to give evidence and asked if she had ever seen any inappropriate misconduct by him.

"Absolutely, unequivocally no," Ms Francombe replied.

Coronor Mr Gittens continued: "There was, nonetheless, a rumour mill, which was winding up. Had you heard rumours?"

Ms Francombe replied: "Never."

The witness said Mr Sargeant had a "great sense of humour" and a was a "very pleasant" person to deal with.

But she conceded he was "apprehensive" about the forthcoming government re-shuffle.

She said towards the end of 2016 Mr Sargeant volunteered that he was on medication for depression, but did not always take the tablets.

Ms Francombe added: "He just said, 'I feel really blue at the minute'."

Mr Sargeant also told her he was, "rubbish at looking after myself".

After his sacking he texted Ms Francombe and his office team, saying: "I'm gone. Sorry I let you guys down, you are magic."

The inquest also heard of a comment to Ms Francombe by her boss, Peter Greening, whose title is Head of Cabinet Division, suggesting that Mr Sargeant's diary commitments were "a bit light" and he ought to be attending more events.

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