THE son of World Cup referee George Courtney plunged 80ft to his death in a tragic accident, an inquest heard.

Promising solicitor Matthew Courtney, 27, who had a history of mental illness, fell from the top floor of the Tate Modern, in London, last February.

The hearing at Southwark Coroner's Court, London, was told he suffered from a form of manic depression potentially sparked by cannabis use.

He was working up to 14 hours a day for a leading City law firm and the day before the tragedy had told his psychiatrist he feared his heavy workload was triggering a relapse.

The former Durham School student was a brilliant academic, as well as a talented linguist and musician, who went from Oxford University to a job with London lawyers Freshfields.

He had been troubled by depression for years. In 1999, after his drink was apparently spiked in Durham, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, missing two terms of his degree studies.

A report by his GP, Dr Maher Shakarachi, revealed he had suffered from bi-polar affective disorder which, he said, "may have been triggered by cannabis use".

He came off medication last November and seemed happy at Christmas when he visited his parents in Spennymoor, County Durham.

But the day before the tragedy, he had told his psychiatrist he was worried about his long hours.

His father said: "We were a little concerned about his workload, but we thought he had the capacity to cope at the time.

"He was an absolute joy to us. He was happy and confident. He was lovely and bright."

The inquest was told Mr Courtney had gone to the Tate after finishing work at 8.30pm on Friday, February 9. He was using his mobile phone on the seventh floor when he fell to his death, at 11pm.

PC Matthew Wilkinson told the inquest he thought the fall had been an accident.

He said: "I think he went to sit on the banister on the upper floor and I think he fell between the banister and the wall."

But Southwark coroner John Sampson said: "There is no reason why anyone should sit on the banister of a staircase in a high place. It's a foolish thing to do.

"Clearly, there is some evidence that this may have been suicidal... it was clearly a self-inflicted situation.

"There is a plausible explanation for what happened - I am satisfied there is a significant gap between the railings on the stairs and the wall. I am going to record a verdict of accidental death."

Mr Courtney, who refereed the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals, said: "It is the right verdict."