Gary Speed narrative verdict after wife tells inquest of marriage strain

The inquest heard Speed's marriage had been under strain

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The coroner at the inquest into the death of Wales manager Gary Speed has said he cannot be satisfied he intended to kill himself.

Speed's widow, Louise, said his job had put strain on their marriage and told how they had a row the night before he was found dead.

She later found his body hanging in the garage at their home near Chester.

The coroner said "the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was intentional or accidental".

Louise Speed said she had gone for a drive after they had words when they returned from a dinner party, but she could not get back into the house.

Four days earlier Speed, 42, sent his wife a text talking "in terms of taking his life", but she said he had dismissed it because of their children.

From Brendon Williams at the inquest

Seldom does an inquest attract such media interest.

Before the hearing, Cheshire police had compiled a list of 50 journalists to attend the hearing - excluding the dozens of camera crews and media trucks outside Warrington town hall.

One member of staff said she could not remember so many people at one inquest.

Such was the interest most journalists arrived an hour before the 2pm start to ensure a seat.

Louise Speed, the Wales manager's widow, was the first witness to arrive flanked by her parents-in-law and nine other close friends and family.

Before the hearing started, Mrs Speed wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.

Everyone in the room listened intently as she recalled her own evidence, reliving the horrific moment she discovered her husband's lifeless body.

Several times she paused to compose herself, wiping away tears.

But despite the high emotion, she remained calm and dignified throughout the inquest as the sometimes graphic evidence was revealed in public.

She said the text conversation referred to their "ups and downs" but also mentioned "how important the boys were" and about "moving forward".

"The texts went on about our future together and how excited he was about our journey together," she told inquest.

Asked if the Wales job was forcing him to spend more time away from his family, Mrs Speed said: "I think he was spending more hours there than he thought he would do initially."

The Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg then asked if it was difficult for both of them "spending long periods apart?"

Mrs Speed responded: "Yes."

Mr Rheinberg asked if this had "put some degree of stress" on their relationship.

She responded: "I would say so, yes."

Mrs Speed said he did not leave a note. Det Insp Peter Lawless said his computer and phone were checked for a note, and none was found.

His friend, the former England captain Alan Shearer, who was with him the day before he was found dead, said he had become aware there were issues between the couple.

Shearer, whose family went on holiday with the Speeds, said he told him such issues were normal in a long-standing relationship.

Shearer last saw him at lunchtime on the Saturday before he died, when Speed appeared on the BBC's Football Focus programme.

He said Speed - who played for a number of Premier League clubs, including Leeds, Newcastle, Everton, and Bolton - seemed fine and was laughing and joking.

He got the call with the news of his death the next day. "It just didn't and still doesn't make sense to me," said Shearer's statement.

He also said his friend did not seem worried about anything and told him he would call him the following Monday. He also said he seemed to be enjoying the Wales manager's job.

'No greater honour'

The hearing was told by the Welsh national team's GP, Dr Mark Ridgewell, that Speed had showed no signs of stress and depression.

Louise Speed outside the inquest Louise Speed said her husband had texted her a few days earlier talking 'in terms of taking his own life'

Dr Bob Muggleton, the medical officer at Sheffield United - the club Speed managed before taking on the Wales job - told the inquest in Warrington that he had worked with him until 2010 and no mental health issues were raised during that time.

The inquest was told about a dinner party hosted by a friend of Speed the night before he died, when he was in good spirits.

Speed had been pushed in the pool with his clothes on, along with other men, and he had tried to push everyone else in the spirit of good fun. He had also been talking of booking a Christmas holiday to Dubai.

Robert Bateman, the taxi driver who took the Speeds home, said everything had seemed normal and they were "as normal as they always are".

Start Quote

It just didn't and still doesn't make sense to me”

End Quote Alan Shearer Friend and former England captain

The inquest was told Speed had alcohol in his blood, just over the UK drink-drive limit of 80mg.

In a statement, Speed's mother Carol said her son had said that there was "no greater honour than to manage his country in the game he loved".

She described him as a "glass half-empty person" and "certainly no optimist". The phone call from her daughter-in-law was the "worst moment of my life".

The inquest heard that investigators believed Speed had been sitting in his garage. Where he was found was wet from his trousers, following his earlier dip in the pool.

The coroner said what was going through his mind was unclear, but he knew his wife was in the vicinity and perhaps he expected to be found.

Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Rheinberg said: "It seems likely that Mr Speed was sitting for some time with a ligature around his neck.

"It may have been that this was some sort of dramatic gesture, not normally in Mr Speed's character, but nonetheless, a possibility."

Mr Rheinberg said it was a "possibility" he "nodded off to sleep" with the ligature still around his neck.

The League Managers' Association later released a statement on the family's behalf after the hearing.

Memorial match

After news emerged of his death, tributes were paid to Speed from around the UK and the sporting world.

Football matches around the country held minute's silences and applause, while fans of his former clubs, including Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United, left scarves, shirts, photos and flags in Speed's memory.

Richard Bevan of the Football League Managers' Association read out a statement on behalf of Gary Speed's family

Tributes were also left at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff City Stadium and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground.

The Football Association of Wales announced a memorial international friendly game against Costa Rica in Cardiff, which will be held on 29 February.

He had earned the first of his 85 Welsh caps as a 20-year-old in a friendly against the Central American country in 1990.

The former Premier League star, who had two sons, went on to become Wales' most capped outfield player, captaining his country 44 times and scoring seven goals. He became Wales manager in December 2010.

Earlier this month Speed's friend and former Wales teammate Chris Coleman was unveiled as the new Wales manager.

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