Falklands veteran deliberately flew plane in to Cornish coast
A decorated Falklands veteran who was struggling to come to terms with leaving the Royal Navy and splitting from his second wife took his own life by flying a plane in to a cliff, an inquest has heard.
Andrew Stillwell-Cox, 55, died on July 21 last year after crashing a light aircraft he had hired from Perranporth Airfield in to a costal foot path on cliffs just north of RAF operated RRH Portreath.
The retired Royal Navy lieutenant commander, from St Austell, who was twice awarded the Sword of Honour, had struggled to cope with life after retiring as first lieutenant from RNAS Culdrose, a jury inquest in Truro heard.
The trained pilot had hired a plane from Perranporth, where he was a member, and had gone out on a solo flight while friends waited for him at the airfield.
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However, instead of returning to pick them up for a second flight, the 55-year-old turned off course, before deliberately flying his plane in to the Cornish coast.
A letter left on the dashboard of his friend and flying partner’s car revealed he had struggled to cope with a recent split from his second wife, as well as life as a civilian.
David Spencer Evans, 63, an ex-RAF intelligence officer and teacher, who was due to fly with him that day, said his friend was still haunted by memories of active service in the Falklands War.
The war veteran was serving on HMS Glamorgan when it was struck by an Argentinian missile killing 14 people.
“Andrew’s death is the consequence of war,” he said. “He was an outstanding officer and contributed a great deal to the service. He was a great friend, very loyal. Despite (what he saw in the Falklands) he performed his duties to the highest of standards and shortly afterwards he was commissioned as an officer.”
The inquest heard how in 2007, Lt Cdr Stillwell-Cox had seen a doctor, suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by leaving the Royal Navy and his experiences in the Falklands.
However, it wasn’t until July 2012, following a split from his second wife, Eleanor, that he made the first of two attempts to take his own life - a failed attempt to gas himself in his own car that was described as a ‘cry for help’.
But just under three weeks later, he had arranged to go on the fatal flight at Perranporth, uncharacteristically leaving his flying suit at home.
Eyewitnesses, who were around 1km away, described how they saw the war veteran’s plane head straight in to the coastal path bursting in to flames.
Detective Constable Jon Bray said a later search found his home in an immaculate condition with one of multiple letters to his second wife and divorce documents.
On hearing the evidence, the jury concluded that Lt Cdr Stillwell-Cox had killed himself.