Death of Cambridge University student Christopher Bethell ‘a tragic accident’

A CAMBRIDGE University student described as an “extremely promising young man” died after accidentally walking into a bus, a coroner has ruled.

Christopher Bethell, 30, was hit by a double-decker Stagecoach bus outside Queen’s College, Cambridge at 3.15pm on May 1. He died two hours later at Addenbrooke’s Hospital from multiple injuries.

An inquest in Huntingdon Law Courts heard, Mr Bethell, who was studying for a masters degree in development studies at Robinson College, was suffering from depression and had seen a psychiatrist the day before.

Moments before the accident Mr Bethell, who lived with his parents in Coton, Cambridge, met childhood friend Alistair Crosby at Starbucks in the town centre for a coffee.

Mr Crosby described him as “out of sorts and distracted”. He said Mr Bethell, was finding it difficult to come to terms with news, he had learnt from Facebook, that an ex-girlfriend had married.

He was also struggling with his father’s dementia. Ian Bethell, suffers from Pics disease, a form of dementia that causes personality changes and memory loss.

Mr Crosby said: “We walked through town. I was having trouble to keep up with him. I was talking to him, trying to get him to open up. I asked him ‘Are you having trouble dealing with things?’

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“I was concerned about him. I was a bit shocked at how changed he was. I found it difficult to get a response of him, other than acknowledging he was having trouble dealing with things.”

Dr Anne Swanepoel, who was duty psychiatrist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, diagnosed Mr Bethell as suffering from moderate depression when she saw him the day before his death.

He told her he had no suicidal thoughts and was not planning to take his own life.

“In my clinical opinion, he was at low risk of self-harm or suicide. He attended the emergency department willingly and understood his depression could be treated.”

Bus driver Stephen Jones told the coroner’s court on Thursday, he had been travelling 25 mph and was slowing down so passengers could take pictures of the college when the incident happened.

He said he noticed Mr Bethell in his peripheral vision, before hearing a bang. “I have a memory of him bending down and coming towards me.”

Christopher’s mother, Norma Bethell said: “Chris was in a slough of despondency, something which we have all had in out lives at some point. It is just a tragic accident.”

South and West Cambridgeshire coroner Belinda Cheney recorded a verdict Mr Bethell had died by accident. She said: “It was a tragic accident in the context of somebody who had been an extremely promising young person.”

Mr Bethell had worked for South Cambridgeshire District Council and Oxford City Council. He played five-a-side football and represented Cambridge University at table tennis.