Navy surgeon, 36, used surgical drugs for suicide

PUBLISHED: 12:32 04 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 February 2015

County Hall in Exeter.

County Hall in Exeter.


A Royal Navy surgeon used his medical knowledge to kill himself with anaesthetic drugs, an inquest has heard.

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Alexander Shearman, 36, was found dead in his room at the Lympstone Royal Marines Commando Training Centre (CTC) on February 3 last year.

The inquest, at County Hall in Exeter heard he had previously sought treatment for a ‘low mood’, and been given anti-depressants, but neither doctors nor his family believed he would harm himself.

On the morning of his death, Lt Cdr Shearman telephoned his mother, who he had met the previous day to discuss an email from his wife, who he was divorcing, saying she was moving to Northern Ireland with their three-year-old twin children.

During the phone call, Lt Cdr Shearman sounded ‘groggy’, and then made a sound as if he was being sick, before the call ended soon after.

Unable to reach their son, Lt Cdr Shearman’s worried parents alerted police, who contacted the officers’ mess at the CTC, where Lt Cdr Shearman had been living while working at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital.

He was found collapsed in his room, with medical equipment nearby, and efforts by staff, and then paramedics, to revive him were unsuccessful.

Police found a laptop at the scene with notes addressed to Lt Cdr Shearman’s family, and a music playlist entitled ‘Alex final’.

A post mortem report found that Mr Shearman had died of acute respiratory failure, and that there were anaesthetic drugs in his system.

Reaching a conclusion of suicide, deputy coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, John Tomalin, referred to evidence that Lt Cdr Shearman, due to his surgical training, would have had ‘a good working knowledge of anaesthetic drugs used in surgical procedures’, and would have known that the drugs he injected himself with would cause him to lose consciousness and stop breathing.

Mr Tomalin said: “I cannot escape the conclusion that Alex did take his own life.”

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