A FORMER high-flying civil servant charged with killing a man during a sado-masochistic sex session told a jury yesterday (Monday, March 24) he had attempted suicide after being treated for HIV.

Kirk Thompson, 46, who played a major role in the response to the bird flu outbreak while he worked at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, denies the manslaughter of David Kochs, 43, who is originally from the Bishop Auckland area, at the ex-government vet's flat in Jesmond, in March last year.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court has heard Mr Kochs died after receiving severe internal injuries after they met up via an internet site and engaged in drug-fuelled sexual activity.

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Mr Thompson was said to have left him under a duvet and invited another man around for sex that same night.

Giving evidence in his defence, he explained how he probably contracted HIV in his third year of his veterinary medicine degree at Edinburgh University, when he was around 22.

He did not take a test for another ten years, as there was no cure at the time, he told the jury.

In the meantime, he studied in the USA, graduated from Edinburgh, won a scholarship to Oxford and also worked part-time at a local vets in the city.

Newcastle-born and Lancashire-raised Mr Thompson, who had been elected head boy of Ormskirk Grammar School, left Oxford in 1997 and got a job at the pharmaceutical giants now called GlaxoSmithKline.

His role involved the care and supervision of animals used in testing - a highly controversial subject, he told the jury.

He did the same role at London University before moving to DEFRA, based in Whitehall, in 2003.

During the 2004-5 bird flu scare, he worked on guidelines on how to deal with the threat, he said.

But he had to leave Whitehall - despite being tipped for the top role of Chief Vet by his boss, he said, and moved back to the North-East where his parents lived.

Mr Thompson explained he ignored the HIV symptoms, which included skin infections and bouts of pneumonia. "I buried it at the back of my head," he told the court.

"I told myself I have got this opportunity, I am still young, I am still fit and I am going to try to have my life."

Nicholas Lumley QC, defending, asked: "In time did you become aware you were not necessarily going to die?"

Mr Thompson replied: "Yes, and that was a shock."

He found out on the day he was diagnosed HIV positive in 2001 that effective treatments were available, he said.

His physical well-being took some years to improve, but then in 2007, his psychological health deteriorated.

"I attempted suicide for the first time after leaving London," he said.

Mr Lumley asked: "It became too much, you simply had to hand your resignation in to Defra?"

Mr Thompson replied: "That is a fair summary."

The trial continues.