A young father who took his own life never got to meet his newborn son, an inquest has heard.
Ricky Gamage was found dead on the beach at Widemouth Bay near Bude on January 10. There had been extensive searches and social media campaigns to try and find the 23-year-old.
A woman, Kerry Thomas, discovered the body when she was walking her dog.
She said: “I was aware there was a young lad missing from the Bude area, so I considered the fact that it could be him. The incident left me feeling shocked and overwhelmed by sadness.
“I have children of my own and I cannot imagine how his family are feeling at this time, my thoughts are with them.”
According to medical experts, Ricky died from multiple injuries. It was suspected that he had jumped from a cliff in the Bude area.
Ricky’s family paid emotional tributes and said he will be greatly missed.
His mother, Samantha Rowe, said: “Rick was a lovely, beautiful man and was well thought of by everyone that knew him.
“This was shown by the level of support shown to us and the lengths people went through to try and find him when he went missing. I will miss him forever and will always love him.”
Ricky’s brother, Billy Gamage, said: “I have no idea why Ricky would have taken his own life, I still can’t believe it.
“He was excited about becoming a dad and was always good with my son.”
Ricky’s father Jason told how he looked day and night for his missing son. Ricky had been reported missing by his friend’s who were unable to find or contact him on December 28 last year.
Mr Gamage said: “I sent a text to Rick saying I was worried about where he was but he didn’t reply.
“I then started looking for Rick myself, in the days that followed I travelled up the motorways as there had been reports of a hitchhiker who looked like Rick.
“I went to the Stonehenge area as there were also sightings reported in the town near there.
“One day I travelled around 600 miles, following this I travelled to Leeds and Sheffield after reports Rick had been seen in homeless shelters.
“I checked hostels and soup kitchens but to no avail. I visited the McDonalds where another report was received and I reviewed CCTV footage but sadly it wasn’t Rick.
“The people in Sheffield were so helpful and friendly we put up our posters but eventually I had to return home.
“I told my wife if I didn’t have any news by the end of the week I would be going out to drive the roads again, I wasn’t going to give up searching for my son.
“On Friday, January 10, police attended my home address and informed me a body had been found on Widemouth Bay Beach.
“They suspected this was Rick and it’s now been confirmed that it’s Rick and I’m still in disbelief.
“I cannot believe Rick took his own life, he didn’t warn anyone he was feeling like this, I would have done literally anything to help Rick had I known he was so sad.
“It breaks my heart and my life will never be the same without Rick here with us.”
Various statements were then read out to try and establish what had happened to Ricky.
In her statement, Miss Rowe said she broke up with her ex husband, which she believed had an obvious affect on the children including Ricky.
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She added that Ricky was very well thought of at school and did well. At the time of his death, he was working for HBH Woolacotts and had a part time job at The Venue in Bude.
He was reportedly trying to save up to buy a house, learn to drive and fund a trip to Peru, which he managed to do in May 2019.
However, after the trip he found out he was going to be a father after a girl he had been seeing, Sophie Bailey, became pregnant.
His mum said Ricky was anxious about becoming a father, but he stood by Sophie and attended her scans and began to purchase things for the baby.
She said: “To my knowledge he had never been depressed or suffered anxiety. He certainly had never been diagnosed with any mental health issues.”
The last time she saw her son was on the day he went missing. She had been with him earlier at his place of work.
She returned home, but was later woken to knocking at the door, where she met Chloe Rooke, Ricky’s girlfriend at the time.
She explained no one could get hold of him and he had sent a strange message to the group chat of The Venue where they worked.
It said: “I love you guys so much, thank you for everything.”
Chloe Rookes said: “I privately messaged him saying ‘Ricky you’re worrying us’. I got no reply. I also tried to call him and again the calls were ringing through.”
She was with some friends and together they went around searching for Ricky. In the end they decided to contact police, and reported him missing.
She said: “I know he would have hated us calling the police and called us ‘drama queens’ but I thought it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“I messaged Ricky’s mum shortly after 11pm and phoned her afterwards to tell her we called the police. She told me she received a message from him which worried me more.”
The message said: “I love you mummy please look after my baby.”
Chloe said: “Leading up to Ricky’s death he seemed happy, we were in a good place and he seemed in agreement with Sophie, the baby’s mother, and we were even talking about the future and what will happen when I go off to uni.
“His friends at work and other staff said how he seemed so happy, so this all came as quite a shock to me.”
During the inquest, Mr Gamage accused his ex wife of abusing Ricky and said this could have led to his death. Ricky’s brother Billy said he had been abused by his mother too.
However these claims were denied by Miss Rowe, and there haven’t been any incidents reported to police.
In a statement, Billy said he had been drinking with his brother at The Venue before he went missing on December 28.
They had been drinking pints of beer and shots, however, Ricky later left without saying goodbye.
Billy said: “I didn’t know anything more until the following morning when my sister Amy contacted me and told me Ricky had been reported missing.”
Billy added: “I didn’t know of anything that happened to Ricky that could have made him feel like this.”
However, during the inquest he told the coroner that it may have been “the family history”.
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The inquest then heard from Sophie Bailey, the mother of Ricky’s child. She said the pair started seeing each other around April last year for a few weeks.
She became pregnant with Ricky’s child, and gave birth to their son on January 5 this year.
She said: “During the time I was with Ricky when I saw him outside our relationship he never gave me any concern he was feeling suicidal.”
However, she said on one occasion he indicated he was not feeling “entirely happy with life”.
This was shortly after she became pregnant. She messaged him about being more supportive and he told her he was planning to take his own life.
She said apart from this he didn’t give her any reason to think he was still feeling unhappy at the time he went missing.
And she said he seemed excited about becoming a dad and supportive of her pregnancy.
Another indication that Ricky was feeling suicidal was several years earlier when he went to a spot in Bude with his friend Matt Ahern and said that if he was going to die, he would like to do it there.
But at the time, Mr Ahern said he had no reason to believe he was being serious. He informed police about the message after Ricky went missing.
DC Karen Janicka, the officer in the case, said: “Ricky disappeared from the venue in Bude at 8.34pm on December 28 under the influence of alcohol.
“CCTV showed him leaving by himself and he didn’t appear to be distressed.
“He didn’t say goodbye to any friends and family at The Venue. A short time later he sent various messages to friends and family that can be interpreted as Ricky saying goodbye.
“CCTV showed Ricky making his way on foot by himself through Bude.”
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She said his mobile phone was later found by police search teams below the area where he is believed to have taken his own life.
She added: “Family and friends of Ricky were unaware of any intention for him to take his life that day, but it’s undeniable that he has considered suicide in the recent past.”
The coroner, Andrew Cox, said: “On the evidence I’ve heard I’m satisfied that it’s more likely than not that Ricky took his own life and that he intended to do so.
“In reaching that conclusion I rely upon the message that was passed to Sophie Bailey, I rely upon the email or messages that were sent to the family and friends on the evening of Saturday, December 28, which caused them understandable concern.
“I rely on the conversation that had previously taken place with Mr Ahern and I rely upon the discovery of the mobile phone at the location previously discussed with Mr Ahern.
“So I’m going to find that on the evening of December 28, it’s more likely than not that Mr Gamage jumped from the cliffs in the Bude area of north Cornwall with the intent of taking his own life.
“His body was then recovered from a beach in Widemouth Bay several days later, on January 10.
“I would like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the family and friends for the loss they have suffered. It’s always tragic when a young man takes his own life.”
Talking can be life-saving. The Samaritans’ confidential helpline is open around the clock, every day of the year, providing a safe place for people to talk.
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