THE estranged wife of a man who doused himself in petrol before getting into his car watched on in horror as it became engulfed in flames, an inquest into his death was told.
Mark Cornthwaite, 47, died on June 19 just hours after dropping off his two children with wife Helen, of Frederick Street, Wombwell.
Although the couple had separated, an inquest held in Sheffield last Friday was told Mr Cornthwaite who had a history of mental health problems had appeared in good spirits before taking his own life.
Helen told the inquest he had taken their children to McDonald’s, Cortonwood, before visiting a photo booth inside the nearby Morrisons supermarket images he later gave to her.
“When he dropped the kids off he said he was going to end his life and that it would be the last time I would see him,” she said.
“He had done this quite a few times before and although he looked unwell and not himself, he had been well for a few months before that.”
Helen, who was joined at the inquest by Mark’s family members, said she believed he headed to a local pub before sending texts to her pleading for ‘another chance’.
“He posted a suicide note through the letterbox but he had cried wolf before,” she added. “I didn’t know what to do as I had our kids inside the house.
“The next thing I received another text from Mark, telling me to look outside.
“I called 999, and he drove the car a short distance away so I thought he was going, but then the car just went up in flames. I saw it all.”
Police and fire crews from Cudworth, Dearne and Tankersley stations then arrived at the scene ‘within minutes’ but were unable to save him.
After realising someone was inside, two residents attempted to pull Mr Cornthwaite from the car, but the intensity of the flames meant they could not get close to the vehicle.
PC Cheryl Durham, who attended alongside colleague PC Naz Gulzar, added: “As we drove we could see the car was well ablaze and we simply could not get anywhere near it. It was such a dangerous situation as residents were out in the street and the car was popping and exploding.
“We quickly established that the priority was to keep them away we couldn’t see inside the car due to the flames and smoke.
“We spoke with Helen and it was understood he was under the influence of drugs.”
Toxicology tests found that Mr Cornthwaite had consumed cocaine in his final hours.
The inquest also revealed a catalogue of mental health-related issues, although he had declined further input from services at Kendray Hospital where he had received treatment just months before his death.
His sister, Louise Key, said: “We have so many questions but we will never get answers to them. He had had a good few months and we saw him at teatime on the night he died.
“He came home from work, got washed and went to take his children out everything had seemed all right so there was no cause for concern.”
Coroner Stephen Ecclestone, who recorded suicide as the cause of Mr Cornthwaite’s death, told the family he was certain he had intended on taking his own life.
“I have to be very sure to do this and it’s clear Mark had a troubled history which resulted in quite intensive input from mental health services,” he added.
“He clearly made a number of threats previously and was under the influence of drugs when he returned to Frederick Street.
“To obtain petrol, douse yourself in it and start a fire are all deliberate acts and therefore I have no doubt he intended to take his own life.
“My sincere condolences must go to the family as this was a tragedy.”
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