AN 'UNFORGIVABLE' police error resulted in a suicide note being thrown away before the family or coroner had a chance to read it.

Anthony Wootton, of Hearn Road, Woodley, was found 'suspended from the loft hatch' by one of his four sons on June 21 after he suffered a stroke.

The 74-year-old was left devastated by the death of his wife and spent several hours every week tending to her grave after her death in December 2015.

He was told he would not be allowed to drive after his stroke and his son told the inquest at Reading Town Hall on November 9 that this was 'the straw that broke the camel's back'.

When Peter Bedford, senior coroner for Berkshire, attempted to trace a note that had been left behind by Mr Wootton, police said they had disposed of it.

"It would have been nice to have a copy to know what his final thoughts were and understand what was going through his mind," his son Gary told the coroner.

"He and mum were inseparable. One of the ways he would spend his time was going to mum's grave.

"After the stroke he was told he would not be able to drive. He had been struggling for a long time and that pushed him over the edge."

His son moved in to help with everyday tasks after he was discharged from the Royal Berkshire Hospital and had only just returned to work.

Discussing the absence of the suicide note, Mr Bedford described the police error as 'unforgivable'.

Reading Chronicle:

Reading Town Hall, where the inquest for Mr Wootton was held

He added: "I will record that he died at his home in Woodley after taking his own life, following the death of his wife and having suffered a recent stroke."

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police (TVP) confirmed that the officer involved in the case wrongly assumed the inquest had finished and disposed of the note.

He added: "The officer made some incorrect assumptions. Firstly that the inquest hearing had already been concluded and then allowed the disposal of the note as it was no longer required.

"These actions did not adhere to the professional standards that Mr Wootton’s family, Berkshire Coroner Peter Bedford, the public, nor TVP expects."

Superintendent Shaun Virtue, local police commander for Bracknell and Wokingham, said: “I would like to express my sincere apologies on behalf of TVP for the upset this situation has caused to Mr Wootton’s family and friends.

“I am aware of the sensitivity and gravity such unexpected deaths cause loved ones and so appreciate their disappointment, and I have written to them personally to express our apologies.

“I have provided an apology to the coroner, reassuring Mr Bedford that police will use the lessons learned from this situation to avoid a reoccurrence.

“Police officers have a responsibility to report and present the circumstances of any unexplained death to the Coroner. It is imperative this is both comprehensive and preserves the relevant evidence for the inquest.

"This was an extremely rare mistake but remains very disappointing for all concerned.

“A review of this incident and the officer’s actions is being conducted currently by TVP.”