An inquest into the death of a PSNI inspector who shot himself in a police station has heard he was suffering from severe depression.

Insp Peter Magowan had recently returned to work from a period of sick leave before he took his own life with a colleague’s weapon.

It happened at Ballymoney police station on 18 April 2016.

The first day of his inquest heard that he lay undiscovered for nine hours following his death.

He was 55-years-old when he died, and was married with two children.

A statement read to the coroner from Insp Magowan’s wife Lisa Magowan heard that he had worked in banking for 15 years before joining what was then the RUC in the mid-1990s.

She described him as “a devoted husband and father”.

‘Immense pressure’

In her statement, Mrs Magowan said her husband had never been absent from work over a stress-related illness until 2009.

Insp Magowan, who held a variety of roles within the PSNI over the years, told his wife he was struggling under “immense pressure and stress” at work.

She said that continuous night shifts made her husband physically ill and he began to suffer from stomach and bowel complaints and was struggling to sleep.

She said he felt unsupported, under-resourced and heavily criticised by more senior officers and began to doubt his own abilities.

In 2015, Insp Magowan went on sick leave and the decision was made to remove access to his personal protection weapon.

At that time, he was diagnosed with severe depression.

Mrs Magowan said her husband told her he was advised by the PSNI’s Occupational Health and Wellbeing staff to “go for walks and join the gym”.

She said he did both but “nothing came close to helping him”.

Insp Magowan returned to work in January 2016 on restricted duty, meaning he would not be expected to take on overtime, public duty or night shifts.

Mrs Magowan said that at the time of his death, her husband was extremely concerned his restricted duty terms would be lifted and that he was also worried about the permanence of the role he was currently working in.

She said her husband had discussed retirement, but he was concerned about the impact this would have on his pension and that fact that he may not be able to get another job.

On the day he died, Mrs Magowan said she had sent her husband a text message in the morning.

He had not replied, but she said that was not unusual because he had poor phone signal in his office in Ballymoney.

Missing weapon

The inquest heard Insp Magowan had not been seen at Ballymoney PSNI station since the morning and had missed several meetings.

However, he was not noted as being missing until later that afternoon.

She said that evening, two officers came to her home to tell her that Insp Magowan was missing and so was a colleague’s police issue firearm along with one round of ammunition.

It was heard police first suspected a member of the public may have broken into the station and taken the weapon from a locker.

The inquest was later told by a police officer that after being informed on the morning of his death that a colleague’s weapon had gone missing, Insp Magowan went “a grey colour”.

But he added: “He just said, ‘That’s awful’, he was just Pete. There was nothing out of the ordinary about his reaction, I just really wish I’d followed him out that day.”

When it was realised he was missing, a police search of the station took place but Insp Magowan was not located.

Another search by specialist officers later found his body in the shower area of the locker room in Ballymoney PSNI station.

The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

Offered help

It was heard that the locker room where Insp Magowan was found had been sealed off by police as a crime scene on the morning of his death after it was discovered a weapon had been stolen.

Mrs Magowan said: “I will never get over the fact that he died in that way and lay alone in that locker room for nine hours.”

She added: “There are really important issues around how he was treated and how he was able to access a firearm despite being deemed unfit to have one himself.”

Counsel acting for the PSNI told the inquest emails suggested that Insp Magowan was offered help with the pressure of his role and also help with his depression.

A Det Sgt involved in the investigation around the missing weapon was asked by counsel acting for the Magowan family if he would have liked to have been told Insp Magowan was missing and his personal protection weapon had been removed, earlier than he was informed.

He answered: “In hindsight yes.”

It was put to the officer by the family’s counsel that Insp Magowan’s colleagues had been “distressed” his body had not been found earlier.

The Det Sgt said: “It’s disappointing but that was the sequence of events.”

The inquest continues.