A FORMER armed robber who shot himself had continually asked to speak to police and his father during an armed siege.

The father of Jonathon Longstaff has questioned whether his son would still be alive today had he been able to speak to him.

An inquest into the death of Mr Longstaff, 33, from Shildon, County Durham, yesterday heard that he had become depressed since the death of his mother, Kathleen.

In 1992, he was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment after he stole more than £3,500 at gunpoint from Binchester Post Office.

A few days before his death on February 1 this year, he had threatened to kill himself during a hearing at Bishop Auckland Magistrates' Court.

He was pleading not guilty to urinating in a public place and possessing counterfeit money.

But during the hearing, he became very agitated, said it was hard to keep going and he was going to kill himself.

A few days later, he told his father, Arnold Longstaff, he was going to kill himself before leaving the house in Bolam with his father's shotgun. When his father received a text message reaffirming the threat, he alerted police.

Superintendent Jane Spraggon told the inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates' Court it was believed Jonathon may have headed to New Moors Farm, near Evenwood Gate, and armed police were sent there while police established his exact location.

Contact was made with him by mobile phone and he requested the presence of police. However, the batteries were failing on his phone and dialogue was difficult.

The owner of New Moors Farm, Dr Alan Lewis, also saw Mr Longstaff and reported that he was asking for police.

As police moved up to the farm, two officers made direct contact with Mr Longstaff, who said he was sorry and wanted to speak to his father.

But Supt Spraggon said he failed to co-operate with any of their requests and that was the only dialogue between him and police.

Arnold Longstaff said: "All he wanted to do was speak to me and I can't understand why nobody told me. I could have gone down there and he might still be here today."

Supt Spraggon said: "We couldn't establish any firm contact. I couldn't have guaranteed your safety and we were trying to see how we could establish that repertoire and how we could get Mr Longstaff Jr to speak to us."

South Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded a verdict of suicide.