A CHAMPION rally car driver has been found dead after a battle with depression, according to an investigation.
Mark Flaherty, 59, a four-time British champion in the 1990s, has died in “catastrophic” circumstances, a coroner said.
The ace had driven his black Land Rover defender to the Oracle shopping center car park in Reading on December 3.
Police later found the engine “neatly and properly parked” and its interior “neat and in good condition,” the coroner said yesterday.
Detective Constable Nicole Jury said Mr Flaherty parked and took the lift to the seventh floor of the building in the city centre.
The rally legend was visiting one location but appeared to have changed his mind before heading to a nearby All Bar One for whiskey and water.
He sat in the outdoor seating area to finish his drinks and smoked a few cigarettes, Reading Coroners’ Court heard.
Mr Flaherty, from Ascot, Berks., returned to the car park and was later found dead by “very distraught” members of the public.
Ian Wade KC, Assistant Medical Examiner for Berkshire, said: “There was, of course, nothing anyone could do.”
The court learned that Mr Flaherty was diagnosed with depression in 2000 and diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder in 2008.
During a mental health assessment on January 17 last year, Mr Flaherty had “expressed regret for making wrong choices in life, described himself as horrible and narcissistic, spoke about his plans to live in Spain and expressed a wish to to seek therapy to address his various issues and his guilt.”
He has had suicidal thoughts and alcohol problems in the past, nurse Godfrey Karambakuwa said.
Mr Flaherty left Wokingham Psychiatric Services on February 2 last year.
Mr Karambakuwa added: “At the time of his release he was going through a divorce which he reportedly found distressing but decided he no longer needed support.”
The coroner concluded that Mr Flaherty died by suicide and said what he did was “carefully thought out and intentional”.
He added: “There is evidence that Mark has struggled with his mental health for many years.
“This action of projecting himself over the top floor of a very tall building, knowing full well that he would descend rapidly and catastrophically, encountering some hard, immovable object–there was only one outcome, either probable or conceivable was pulled.”
Mr Flaherty started rally racing at the age of 18 before switching to rallycross three years later.
He made his name with a two-litre, rear-wheel-drive MKII Escort in the ’90s, before moving up to supercars with the legendary Group B MG Metro 6R4.
Mr Flaherty won two Lydden Hill Championships in 1991 and 1992 and was named British Rallycross Driver of the Year last year.
These accolades were followed by two wins at British Championships the following year.
Mr Flaherty has twice been a British Rallycross Drivers Association (BDRA) champion.
After a hiatus, he returned to racing in the 2010s.
Fans will remember the racer as a legend after his death. One wrote: “Thank you for the passion for rallying.”
You’re not alone
A life is lost to suicide in the UK EVERY 90 minutes.
It does not discriminate and touches the lives of people in all sectors of society – from the homeless and unemployed to construction workers and doctors to reality stars and footballers.
It is the leading cause of death in people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car accidents.
And men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Yet it is rarely talked about, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop now and take notice.
That’s why The Sun created the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The goal is that we can all do our part to save lives by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health.
Let’s all pledge to ask for help when we need it and to listen to others… You are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help coping with mental health issues, the following organizations offer support:
- QUIET, www.thecalmzone.net0800 585 858
- heads together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Spirit, www.mind.org.uk0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org0800 068 41 41
- Samaritan, www.samaritans.org116 123
- movember, www.uk.movember.com
- fear Britain www.anxietyuk.org.uk03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm