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By ESPN Staff

Narrative verdict on Speed

A coroner has ruled that the death of former Wales football manager Gary Speed may have been an accident.

• Speed sent text about taking life

In a narrative verdict, Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg gave the cause of death as hanging but said "the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was intentional or accidental".

The inquest at Warrington Coroner's Court heard that Speed texted his wife days before his death and "talked in terms of taking his life". The couple also "had words" on the night before he was found dead after they had been to a dinner party at a friend's house.

Speed, who played for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United, was found hanged at his Cheshire home on November 27 last year by his wife Louise, but Mr Rheinberg said on Monday that the football manager may have "nodded off" while sitting with cable around his neck on the stairs in his garage.

Mrs Speed told the inquest her husband had talked in terms of taking his life in the text exchange days earlier but that he "dismissed it", saying that he was "excited" about the future with his wife and two sons. Mrs Speed said the text referred to their "ups and downs" but went on about "how important the boys were" and about "moving forward".

"We walked in the house and we had an exchange of words about something and nothing," Mrs Speed said.

She said she suggested she go for a drive but her husband blocked the door and told her she "wasn't going anywhere".

"I went upstairs and lay on the bed for probably about five or ten minutes," she said. "Then I decided to go for a drive, to clear my mind (and for) space to think."

Questioned further by Mr Rheinberg, she said she only drove to the "top of the road" before she stopped to ring her husband's mobile phone. After getting no reply, she returned to the house and tried, unsuccessfully, to ring him again. "I decided to keep the car running and stay there until I could get into the house," she explained.

After getting some sleep in the vehicle she told the hearing she woke up at about 6am and went to the outside bathroom. She said she noticed some shed keys missing that were usually stored there and went to the shed to see if Gary was there, before moving to the garage.

Blinking away tears she said: "I went to the window and there I saw him."

She nodded as Mr Rheinberg asked: "Could you see Gary on the stairs? Was it apparent that Gary was hanging?"

"Yes," Mrs Speed told him.

She said she then woke the children to open up the house and called the emergency services. On their advice, she cut her husband to the ground as paramedics were sent to the scene.

The sportsman was hanging from a banister with a piece of television aerial, the court has heard, and Mrs Speed confirmed there was no note or message left by her husband before his death.

In a statement read out after the inquest, Mr Speed's family said the day of his death was the "worst day of our lives" but his memory "shines brightly in our thoughts".

Earlier Mr Rheinberg told the hearing the couple had clearly been going through a "difficult time". Mr Speed was appointed as manager of the Welsh team in December 2010 and Mr Rheinberg said: "It's clear that with the appointment as manager came responsibilities."

He said Mrs Speed "talked in terms of some stresses, including some stresses within their relationship, partly brought about by forced absences, and clearly the couple were going through something of a difficult time, but nothing that couldn't be sorted out".

He said "nothing abnormal" had happened in the days leading up to Mr Speed's death. He appeared on BBC1's Football Focus programme and met up with his friend and former Newcastle United team-mate Alan Shearer, who was in Salford recording Match of the Day, before going home to Huntington Hall, Chester.

He and his wife then went to a dinner party where at one point Mr Speed was pushed into a swimming pool. Mr Rheinberg said he joined in "with gusto".

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."

Mr 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 they had been "working through" their "ups and downs".

The inquest heard that investigators believed Mr Speed had been sitting on the stairs in his garage with the ligature around his neck. 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 was sitting there for some time and he "nodded off to sleep" with the cable around his neck.


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