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Published: 20 August 2009

Adam Rothapel: warm, humorous and an avid Newcastle United fan
Depressed civil servant in Tube station suicide

Justice Minister pays tribute to ‘one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met’

A SCHOOL governor who was private secretary to a government minister committed suicide after a bout of depression, an inquest has heard.
Adam Rothapel, 32, of Minton Mews, West Hampstead, died in May after stepping in front of an underground train at Finchley Road Tube
A statement from Justice Minister Bridget Prentice read out at a St Pancras inquest on Tuesday described Mr Rothapel as “one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met”. She added: “I will not only miss him as an advisor but also as a friend.”
Mr Rothapel had been due to marry this month.
At the inquest, his cousin, Dr Sheldon Stone, a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, questioned what had happened after Mr Rothapel called NHS Direct – a 24-hour helpline. It referred him to Camidoc, an out-of-hours doctors’ surgery.
The inquest was told that Mr Rothapel had expressed suicidal thoughts during a half-hour phone call to Camidoc the day before his death but his concerns were passed to his GP, rather than his psychiatrist. Dr Gregory Battle, who works for Camidoc, told the court he felt Mr Rothapel was “moving towards needing admission to treatment in hospital” but that it could be dealt with by his GP the following day.
Dr Stone asked whether it would have been better to bypass the GP and include the psychiatrist immediately. Dr Battle replied: “That might have been an important piece of action that possibly could have impacted on what happened.” He said it was something that should be explored by NHS bosses.
Dr Battle’s assessment found Mr Rothapel was suffering from a “severe depressive illness”. He said he was suffering from “fleeting suicidal thoughts” but not demonstrating “actively suicidal” intentions.
The inquest heard that it took six months from a GP referral in October to line up an appointment with psychiatrists. Dr Stone said Mr Rothapel would ask: “How severe do I need to be before they’ll see me? Suicidal?”
The court heard that Mr Rothapel, who in the months before his death had taken up a post as a governor at Hampstead School in West Hampstead, had dropped off his fiancée, Samantha Baden, at Finchley Road and Frognal station in Swiss Cottage before “impulsively” heading into the Tube station.
The day before his death, he and Ms Baden went for a walk to Hampstead Heath. “We had a far-reaching conversation about where we were going,” she said. “I said I needed him to accept he was sick. He talked very optimistically, not just about the wedding but after the wedding.”
He had experienced depression twice before, the court heard. Once when he was 20, when his father died, and at 24 after a painful break-up. He was also frustrated by chronic bowel problems and had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in February.
His psychiatrist, Dr Nora Turjansky, said she saw him a week before his death but did not think he would commit suicide because he had never said he intended to.
In her last contact with him on May 22, she said he appeared to feel “better and calmer”.
At the time of Mr Rothapel’s death, on an online tribute page set up in his memory friends paid tribute to his warmth, humour and intellect, as well as his love of Newcastle United Football Club.
Verdict: Suicide.

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