A boxer killed himself in woodland in Bucklebury, West Berkshire, after a desperate struggle against depression, a coroner has ruled.

Bryan 'Pitbull' Richardson sent his on-off partner a photo of himself holding a noose just before he took his life, the inquest heard.

The middleweight contender, whose fights were featured on Sky TV and British Eurosport, had embarked on a weight-loss campaign to prepare for a fight but it affected his mental state and he withdrew from the bout, eventually losing his boxing licence, the inquest was told.

Having his licence revoked piled on more depression and Mr Richardson, known as the Pitbull for his aggressive, full-throttle fighting style, had to take up new work as a taxi driver to pay back all the advance ticket sales for the upcoming match which was cancelled.

Mr Richardson was a respected fighter in the Queensbury Boxing League and was well known for challenging reigning champion boxer Ben Davies for the regional middleweight belt.

He was given a standing ovation for his blistering effort, although he was beaten by the younger champion.

The 36-year-old was found hanging in remote woods on a summer's evening, shortly after sending his on-off partner a picture of himself with a noose around his neck, assistant coroner Alison McCormick explained.

She told the hearing in Reading that Mr Richardson was forced into his new profession to refund the tickets which had sold ahead of the bout and his vulnerable mental health deteriorated trying to financially support his three children with his partner.

The couple were teenage sweethearts after meeting at 18, but had an increasingly fraught relationship after Mr Richardson became anxious his partner, Leanna, would leave him for another man - and he briefly ended the relationship shortly before his death.

However Ms McCormick, assistant coroner for Berkshire, told the hearing how the relationship was on and off and the couple were anticipating their fourth child together.

Reading a letter from his mother, Laura Richardson, the coroner explained he had moved back in with her in Reading after their relationship difficulties and eventually voluntarily admitted himself at Prospect Park Mental Health Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, on July 14 2018.

However, he was discharged one month later - on August 14 - and was discovered just three days later by a horrified dog walker in Burdens Heath, in Upper Bucklebury at around 7pm on August 17.

Police and paramedics arrived at the scene shortly and desperate attempts to resuscitate him were made.

However, he was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of death as hanging, while toxicology tests confirmed Mr Richardson was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs on the day of his death.

Giving evidence at the inquest, detective Craig Cole confirmed that there were no signs of any third party involvement in his death.

Mr Richardson’s black taxi was found nearby in the woods, despite him being warned by mental health professionals just days before his death that his health and recent period in hospital made him unfit to drive for at least three months.

The inquest heard that the boxer had endured turbulent mental health throughout his life and experts believed he was potentially suffering unresolved trauma.

His step-sister was killed in a road accident when he was just three years old and his cousin committed suicide years later, the coroner said.

The inquest heard that he turned to boxing after traumatic formative years, as he and his mother endured abusive relationships with his father and step-father.

He was also bullied at school and bullied later during a period serving in the Army, from which he was later released.

In her statement, Ms Richardson, from Reading, said her son suffered severe depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues throughout his adult life.

He frequently discussed suicide and had attempted to take his own life years before.

Mental health practitioner Rita Bell told the coroner Mr Richardson's boxing career became his identity and method of dealing with his past trauma - and deteriorated as he grew older and he lost his licence.

She said: “His whole identity seemed to be tied up with boxing.”

Mr Richardson was also a talented footballer, once attracting attention from both Reading FC and Arsenal and he held a top grade black belt in karate.

However, despite his sporting success, his crippling illness made him feel convinced he was never good enough.

Dr Nav Sodhi confirmed to the inquest that Mr Richardson had improved considerably in the period before being released from hospital and he had spent a number of days on trial discharge, where he divided his time between his mother and partner’s address.

Dr Sodhi said he had ruled that as a voluntary patient with capacity to make his own decisions, Mr Richardson’s request to be discharged with monitoring and after-care arrangements, should be fulfilled.

However, the inquest was told he had been heard telling a doctor he did not feel ready to to be discharged and expressed the wish he could spend more time on the ward at Prospect Park Hospital - and Ms Richardson too felt he was not ready to be discharged.

In her statement, she said: “He had his bags and was being released.

"I would watch him take his medication and the day he was discharged I received a call from the hospital and I said: 'He may think he is OK... but believe me, he isn’t.'"

Dr Sodhi said: “He had some difficult moments but he wanted to be discharged.

"He was thinking more positively about the future.

"He wanted to move on, get back to his children and get back to employment.”