Man’s fatal error in misjudged cliff jump

PUBLISHED: 12:58 30 November 2012

Cliffs near Orcombe Point, Exmouth

Cliffs near Orcombe Point, Exmouth

Archant

An inquest was told of a Budleigh Salterton man’s fatal error as he misjudged a cliff jump at Orcombe Point. He died from multiple internal injuries.

A Budleigh Salterton man, who died in a tragic accident at Orcombe Point, had just found happiness in his life, an inquest has heard.

Nicholas Saunders, 27, of Dalditch Lane, died from multiple internal injuries on December 18, 2011, after jumping from the cliff top to reach the beach below.

Andrew Cox, deputy coroner for Devon, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest heard how the day before Nick Saunders died, he had telephoned his boss to quit his part-time waiting job to concentrate on his musical ambitions.

Meditation enthusiast Nick spoke of a ‘Grand Tour’, thanking his boss for his help in influencing his decision about his future.

Nick spoke with ‘sheer excitement’, leading his boss to remember the conversation as ‘bizarre and weird’ and almost schizophrenic, - prompting him to ask his employee if he had taken drugs.

Nick denied drug taking, saying ‘you don’t realise how helpful you have been in this decision. It will be clear in a couple of days’ time’.

The bistro owner, also a keen musician, said: “I had absolutely no idea what he meant. I had been thinking it was strange and almost a mysterious conversation

“I felt as though I was talking to someone who had a higher meaning or truth but didn’t want to share that with the person at that time.”

The inquest heard how Nick practised transcendental meditation (TM) as a relaxation technique to banish stress.

On the day of his death, his family had asked his TM tutor, Peter Brown, to call at the family home because they had concerns Nick was talking in a ‘very strange way’.

“He thought that his music was going to be the thing that changed the world, to bring about a new age and that he had this great purpose,” said Mr Brown.

The inquest heard how Nick appeared to be experiencing a messianic state of mind, had stopped eating and was subject hopping when he spoke.

“There was a certain amount of incoherence,” said Mr Brown. “It was like he knew something that we didn’t.”

Nick died after jumping from the cliff at Orcombe Point, while walking with his friend from university, Kris Rees.

The pair walked the length of the beach, to Sandy Bay, making the return journey along the cliff top as darkness fell.

Mr Rees said they discussed the ‘metaphysical matters’ that were on Nick’s mind. He said emotions ran high, with Nick talking about his plans for the band, of which Mr Rees was a member.

“He seemed very erratic and hadn’t slept. There was a nervous energy about him,” said Mr Rees.

The inquest heard how the pair became disorientated in the dark, when Nick made the decision to jump to the beach below.

He said: “We can jump it, it’s fine.” Mr Rees said his friend had gone over the cliff before there was time to react.

“He generally spoke of a transformation. Something had clicked in his mind and he felt no fear,” said Mr Rees.

“I think he really lost touch and track with what was actually feasible, combined with this lack of fear, it distorted what was possible.”

Deputy coroner Mr Cox said he believed Nick’s ‘excitable state of mind’, plus lack of sleep for up to three nights preceding his death, had impaired his judgement of the distance from the cliff to the beach.

Mr Cox said: “He believed he could make the jump to the beach. It’s my opinion that he did not make it with intent to take his life.

“I am satisfied that Nick has deliberately jumped off the top, intending that he could safely reach the beach below.

“Tragically, he was wrong on that. I don’t know whether it was because he was tired.

“I return a verdict of an intentional act, which resulted in an unintentional outcome.”

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