ByTelegraph Reporters 12 October 2021 • 12:09am
A Warwick University student killed himself after disengaging with his business course during lockdown, an inquest has heard.
Will Bargate, 23, was in the second year of his course at the time of the first national lockdown and had moved to the family home in Little Sampford in Essex to work remotely.
Father Quentin Bargate said his son, who got straight A grades at A-level, was “always smiling, always seemed to be happy and engaged”.
He had no history of mental health issues, Monday’s inquest in Chelmsford was told.
The student was seen on CCTV leaving home at around 3.20am on September 26 last year and his family reported him missing the following day.
He was found dead in woodland less than a quarter of a mile from the family home on October 1.
Inspector Barry Atkinson of Essex Police said his death was not suspicious, and a note was found on his mobile phone.
The inquest was told that Mr Bargate did not sit any of his second year exams, failing his course, and did not respond to an email on July 24 inviting him to take resits.
His father said the family were not aware of this and believed they should have been contacted.
Sean Horstead, area coroner for Essex, described Mr Bargate’s death as “unpredicted and unpredictable”.
“The striking thing is the almost total disengagement that was manifest, no contact after the finished group project to which (Will) contributed through March,” said Mr Horstead.
“But by May and through June, Will had simply withdrawn from any active, productive engagement with the course requirements.”
He said the disengagement “could and should have… generated a more proactive engagement with Will on the part of the university”.
“There was a missed opportunity for engagement with Will,” he said, adding that he did not suggest any individual failed to act.
The coroner added: “It’s not possible to make a definitive, causal link between that missed opportunity and the events of late September.”
He concluded that Mr Bargate died by suicide and noted that changes have since been made at the university.
“Warwick Business School have since significantly lowered the threshold for a referral to wellbeing services,” he said.
Quentin Bargate, the founder of luxury asset law firm Bargate Murray, said after the hearing: “I think Warwick University has learnt some important lessons for the future which is what I was most concerned should happen, and most important for us is to put these terrible and tragic events behind us.”
In February, Mr Bargate wrote on a fundraising page, set up in memory of Will: “We are hoping for change, so that universities identify at risk young students and warn family and friends of any potentially serious potential problem before it is too late.” To date, more than £9,000 has been raised for Young Minds Trust.
Stuart Croft, vice-chancellor at Warwick, extended his “heartfelt sympathy” to Mr Bargate’s family and said the university had carried out an internal review following his death.
“As a result, we have changed our procedure for contacting students if they fail to meet deadlines and do not respond to emails from the university,” he said.
“In these circumstances, we will now attempt to get in touch in a variety of ways to help us to identify trigger points to escalate concerns to the wellbeing team, who will use their professional clinical judgment to assess the situation, and identify any steps we should take to try to reach students.
“And if a student misses an exam and no mitigating circumstances are submitted, this will now automatically trigger a follow-up contact.
“We will reflect on the coroner’s comments and as ever remain open to making any further changes which will help strengthen our approach.”