An engineer from North Chailey described as ‘articulate, charismatic and intelligent’ died as a result of suicide, a coroner concluded at Eastbourne Town Hall today (Thursday October 26).
Nicholas John Leale, who was found dead at his home in Haywards Heath Road earlier this year, took his own life using a shotgun, the court heard.
In a statement read at the inquest, Mr Leale’s wife of 29 years, Leslie Leale, said her husband had been showing signs of what she and her two sons believed to be early onset dementia.
She said her husband started to become forgetful and began to show personality changes, becoming irritated and angry at minor things; all behaviour she later discovered could be a symptom of the disease.
Mr Leale had confessed to noticing changes and was worried something might be wrong, according to Mrs Leale, though his condition was undiagnosed at the time of his death.
On July 1, the 59-year-old was found dead at the grave of a beloved family dog outside his home. The court heard he had shared posts on social media which the coroner described as ‘compatible with suicide’.
Mr and Mrs Leale had been planning to buy pigs to add to their smallholding of sheep, hens, beehives and a puppy, the court heard.
Mr Leale had passed a difficult chainsaw exam on the week of his death and had purchased tickets to a smallholders show the night before he died, leading the coroner to suggest the death had not been premeditated.
On reaching his conclusion, coroner Alan Craze said: “This was a devastating tragedy. Mr Leale had not been himself. He had not been himself for some weeks.”
The coroner said there was a possibility if Mr Leale’s condition has been identified his death may have been preventable.
Mr Leale, who had worked for the RAF including with the Leuchars Scotland mountain rescue team, enjoyed windsurfing, marathons and sailing, according to his wife.
“He was outgoing, highly intelligent and competitive,” she said. “He just loved a challenge.”
In her statement Mrs Leale said her husband had enjoyed clay pigeon shooting with her sons, always remaining competitive and coming home from shoots in good humour.
“Never in a million years did the boys or I expect he would use the gun in this way,” she said.
Quoting a friend’s speech at Mr Leale’s funeral, the coroner said: “He will be remembered for his sharp sense of humour and generosity.”