Farm manager took own life suffering from depression after losing job
A “VERY experienced” farm manager took his own life after his contract was terminated by a “demanding” estate owner, an inquest heard yesterday (Wednesday).
The hearing in Newbury Town Hall was told that Giles John Budgen ignored a warning from his predecessor not to take the job at Marcham Farm, Peasemore.
Mr Budgen’s widow Elizabeth claimed that the employer, estate owner and asset management tycoon John Duffield, was a demanding man who put her husband under a lot of pressure.
On the morning of October 4, Mr Budgen took a shotgun from the cabinet at the The Hearn – the family home provided with the job – and ended his life.
Mrs Budgen said that she, her husband and their daughter Charlotte had moved into the property last June, but he soon became unhappy in his work.
“The farm owner was a demanding man. Giles began having problems sleeping due to the pressure at work.”
After over-the-counter remedies failed to help, the inquest heard that the 47-year-old sought help from his GP at The Downland Practice, Chieveley, citing stress at work.
The previous farm manager, Mike Gibbons, said in a statement: “I tried to persuade him not to take the job.
“We spoke on the phone several times since and I spoke to him a week before his death – he sounded a little low.”
Mr Duffield said in a statement that Mr Budgen had been a “stand-out applicant” but that, several months into his employment, issues arose about the way he was carrying out his work.
He added: “In July 2012, I told him he wasn’t fulfilling his role and I would have to terminate his contract.
“He appeared disappointed, but not to the extreme. I was shocked to learn of his tragic death.”
Mr Budgen and his family were due to move out of their home by New Year’s Eve, and he had secured new employment in the meantime, the inquest heard.
Mrs Budgen said that on the day he died, she heard Charlotte downstairs, crying over a sheet of A4 paper which read, in part,: “Working here has made my life a misery. I’ve gone into a dark tunnel and can see no light.”
She ran outside and found her husband’s body beside a shotgun, which he legally owned.
Post mortem tests showed that he died from a single shotgun wound.
West Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford said: “Mr Budgen was a very experienced farm manager who, perhaps somewhat unusually, was put on notice by the outgoing farm manager seeking to dissuade him from taking on the job.”
He ruled that Mr Budgen had taken his own life “while suffering from depression over his employment circumstances,” adding: “I believe that was the catalyst for everything that followed.”
Mr Duffield founded and chaired two of the best-known businesses in the UK fund management industry, Jupiter Asset Management and New Star Asset Management.
Founded in 1985, Jupiter grew its assets to £14bn and, from inception in 2001, New Star’s funds grew to a peak of £24.7bn in June 2007.
He was involved in an acrimonious unfair dismissal case brought against New Star to an employment tribunal.
Mr Duffield is currently a senior partner in Brompton Asset Manage-ment.