A POPULAR headteacher who inspired children “to be the best they could be” took his own life, an inquest has ruled.

Neil Hedworth, 48, died in April after taking prescription drugs which he had been given by a doctor to treat an existing long-term illness.

The inquest, held at County Durham and Darlington Coroner’s Court in Crook, heard that Mr Hedworth’s family had become concerned about his wellbeing after not hearing from him for two days.

The Northern Echo: MUSICIAN: Neil Hedworth pictured as a young organist. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Neil Hedworth was a popular primary school teacher and a church organist, his parents, Annette and Colin speak about his life Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

It also heard that Mr Hedworth had a long history of depression and was in “a lot of pain” due to a rare movement disorder known as myoclonic dystonia syndrome.

He was also struggling with the separation from his wife.

A post mortem report found the level of the prescription drug in his system “could have posed a serious risk of toxicity – consistent with a fatal dose”.

Annette and Colin, Mr Hedworth’s parents, said they had been incredibly moved by an outpouring of support from Harrogate’s Woodfield Community Primary School, where a tree was planted in Mr Hedworth’s memory earlier this year.

Prior to taking up his role there, he was head of school at Darlington’s Heathfield Primary, where he worked for 16 years.

Paying tribute to his son, Mr Hedworth said: “He had a favourite saying and that was that he tried to be the best that he could be.

“That’s what he tried to instil in the children, he cared about their education and always wanted to bring out the best in them.”

Mrs Hedworth added: “It’s comforting to us to have received messages from his pupils and their families saying that their children want to be just like him.

“He was a good man and we know just how hard he worked to ensure young people got a good education so that they too could become the best they could be – he will be remembered for that.”

Coroner Jeremy Chipperfield said Mr Hedworth had found his career as a teacher “very rewarding” after finishing his training when he was 26.

He had previously worked at Northallerton's County Hall and had then gone on to study music at university.

In reaching a verdict of suicide, Mr Chipperfield said: “The evidence creates a clear picture of what he wanted to happen.

“He was undoubtedly dealing with unhappiness with his relationship and chronic pain.”

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