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Red Arrows pilot, 62, hanged himself in a Holiday Inn





  • Peter Collins hanged himself after becoming depressed about semi-retirement
  • 62-year-old Falklands veteran was one of Britain's most experienced test pilots
  • In August, at the Holiday Inn Chester, hanged himself after a depressive episode

By Keiligh Baker for MailOnline

Published: 09:24 EST, 17 February 2017 | Updated: 09:27 EST, 17 February 2017

A Red Arrows pilot and Falklands War hero hanged himself in a hotel after becoming depressed following his semi-retirement, an inquest heard.

Peter Collins, 62, was one of Britain's most experienced test pilots having joined the RAF in the mid-1970s and trained on their Sea Harrier FRS1 fighter.

During the Falklands War he flew Sea Harriers with the decorated 809NAS (Naval Air Squadron) on patrol from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.

Peter Collins, 62, (pictured) was one of Britain’s most experienced test pilots having joined the RAF in the mid-1970s and trained on their Sea Harrier FRS1 fighter Peter Collins, 62, (pictured) was one of Britain’s most experienced test pilots having joined the RAF in the mid-1970s and trained on their Sea Harrier FRS1 fighter

Peter Collins, 62, (pictured) was one of Britain's most experienced test pilots having joined the RAF in the mid-1970s and trained on their Sea Harrier FRS1 fighter

From 1986 to 1988 he was promoted to Squadron Leader as he took the highly coveted Red Arrows seat of 'Red Two', flying the famous red Hawk T1 in displays around the world.

An inquest heard Mr Collins, of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, later became a test pilot but in 2015 decided to semi-retire and started to suffer from depression.

The hearing was told last August 24, 2016, at the Holiday Inn in Chester, Cheshire, after a 'depressive episode' he tragically hanged himself.

Heartbroken widow Gudrun Collins told Warrington Coroner's Court how her devoted husband had become increasingly 'anxious' after semi-retiring and regretted his decision to ground himself.

An inquest heard Mr Collins, of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, later became a test pilot but in 2015 decided to semi-retire and started to suffer from depression An inquest heard Mr Collins, of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, later became a test pilot but in 2015 decided to semi-retire and started to suffer from depression

An inquest heard Mr Collins, of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, later became a test pilot but in 2015 decided to semi-retire and started to suffer from depression

She said: 'He was anxious, thinking he had made the wrong decision. He was not coping with the changes.

'He made a major life decision and regretted what he did and was worried about the future.'

Mrs Collins said they had discussed what would happen if Mr Collins was unable to find work to support his family.

But she said they would have been able to 'tighten their belts' as she worked as a health care professional and he was worrying too much.

During the Falklands War he flew Sea Harriers with the decorated 809NAS (Naval Air Squadron) on patrol from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious During the Falklands War he flew Sea Harriers with the decorated 809NAS (Naval Air Squadron) on patrol from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious

During the Falklands War he flew Sea Harriers with the decorated 809NAS (Naval Air Squadron) on patrol from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious

Mrs Collins said there was no indication of what was to come when he left their home on August 21, 2016, to travel to Cheshire for work.

She added: 'He was going back to work to do a job he loved. His death was a total surprise for us.'

She told the inquest she last received a text from her husband on August 23 at 6.15pm.

A GP report read to the inquest from Dr Gemma Atkins said Mr Collins had seen a doctor complaining of sudden weight loss and anxiety.

He went through a battery of tests before putting him on some anti-anxiety medication.

Just three weeks before he died, his daughter had found him unresponsive at home with an apparent suicide note and called an ambulance.

He came around in the ambulance and told the paramedics he had drunk two bottles of whisky.

The GP report also said Mr Collins had been to the Priory clinic in 2002 after being diagnosed with severe depression and was discharged later that year.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Collins had the equivalent of a couple of glasses of wine in his system and had died from hanging. He had left a suicide note A post-mortem examination found Mr Collins had the equivalent of a couple of glasses of wine in his system and had died from hanging. He had left a suicide note

A post-mortem examination found Mr Collins had the equivalent of a couple of glasses of wine in his system and had died from hanging. He had left a suicide note

A colleague of Mr Collins, Richard Haughton, who works at Raytheon Systems Ltd, based in Hawarden Airport, in Cheshire, told the inquest Mr Collins was still working for his company after his semi-retirement the year before.

He said he had shown up to work on August 22 and 23 but did not arrive for a 9am meeting on August 24.

Mr Haughton said Mr Collins seemed 'normal' except he had lost some weight.

He said: 'He was full of life, a real character.

'He was good friends with a number of people around the office and as far as I'm aware he didn't say anything to anyone.'

He said Mr Collins seemed slightly quieter than usual when he was helping to test aircraft on August 22 and 23 but he was unaware of any particular concerns or worries.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Collins had the equivalent of a couple of glasses of wine in his system and had died from hanging. He had left a suicide note.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, senior coroner for Cheshire Nicholas Rheinberg said Mr Collins died after a 'depressive episode'.

Mr Rheinberg said: 'Mr Collins was a successful man and had a long career.

'He made a decision to retire and become self-employed but it is clear from the evidence that he regretted that decision.

'I am satisfied that beyond reasonable doubt that there were no suspicious circumstances and that he took his own life.'

 Mr Collins was one of Britain's most well-known and experienced test pilots, flying a total of 119 different fixed-wing planes with over 10,000 flight hours.

He wrote for Flight International magazine for 12 years as a contributor, test flying an array of aircraft for the magazine as their version of Top Gear's 'Stig'.

After his time with the Red Arrows, he went to the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down, graduating as an experimental test pilot in 1989.

After leaving the air force in 1993, Collins tried the airliner route, for a while working with both Air UK and KLM UK.

He then joined Raytheon Systems UK in 2004 as head of flight operations and chief test pilot.

During the following years he worked on the development and in-service enhancement of the RAF's Bombardier Sentinel surveillance aircraft.

Leaving Raytheon in 2015 to semi-retire, he turned his attention to his own private firm '4front Aviation', offering services such as flight-test expertise and technical support.

He had his own Twitter page @TestPilotPete which he used to show him flying aircraft all over the globe.

On 31st August his family updated the Twitter page with a black and white picture of Mr Collins in the RAF - and revealed he had tragically taken his life.

The update read: 'It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that the family of @testpilotpete must announce his passing last week.'

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.  

 


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