The distraught boyfriend of Love Island star Sophie Gradon took his own life almost three weeks after he and his brother discovered her hanging at her parent’s home, an inquest has heard.
Aaron Armstrong, 25, was ‘hysterical’ in a call to his mother Donna while he and Ryan Armstrong were in the house with 32-year-old Sophie’s body on June 20.
Her death shocked the Armstrong family, with Sophie apparently looking forward to a forthcoming race meeting they were planning to attend.
The inquest heard that in the hours before her death she sent a picture of herself in a new dress to Donna Armstrong which she planned to wear at the races.
Some 20 days after Sophie’s death Aaron, an amateur boxer who worked as a boat captain in his father’s sea freight business, was found hanging in his room by Donna at the family’s sprawling home on the outskirts of Blyth, Northumberland.
Posting online eight days before his death, Mr Armstrong made reference to seeing Sophie again, writing: ‘I will never stop loving u and my heart will be yours until the day I join you I will see u very soon my angel so keep are [sic] bed warm for me’.
Aaron Armstrong with his girlfriend, Love Island star Sophie Gradon, who died 20 days before him
Posting on social media in the run-up to his death, Mr Armstrong made reference to seeing Sophie again, writing: ‘I will never stop loving u and my heart will be yours until the day I join you I will see u very soon my angel so keep are bed warm for me’
Eric Armstrong, senior Coroner for South Northumberland, recorded a verdict that Aaron took his own life after taking cocaine and alcohol, which may have clouded his judgement.
Mr Armstrong read a statement from Donna Armstrong detailing how Sophie’s body was found.
In it she said: ‘Aaron’s relationship with Sophie was very intense and emotional.’
On June 17th last year Aaron and Sophie went for Sunday lunch at Branches restaurant in Ponteland, Northumberland, and the following day Mr and Mrs Armstrong went on holiday to France.
Mrs Armstrong said: ‘When we got to France I received a Facebook message from Sophie and a picture of a dress with a link on it. She said she had chosen a dress to wear at a race meeting we were going to.’
Sophie’s was pronounced dead on June 20th after her body was found by the Armstrong brothers.
Mrs Armstrong’s statement to the hearing said: ‘I received a call from Aaron, he said he was worried, he’d had no contact from Sophie and she had not been on her social media profile.
‘He sounded worried and was talking quickly and was snappy.He rang Ryan to take him to Sophie’s because he was worried about what he might find.
‘Ryan said he was in the process of doing that. Half an hour later I got a call from Ryan . He was crying and said Sophie seemed to have hung herself. I could hear Aaron screaming in the background asking if the ambulance was coming. He sounded hysterical.’
Mr Armstrong said: ‘It is clear Aaron was extremely distressed as a consequence of he and his brother Ryan finding Sophie.’
The family of Ms Gradon (pictured in an undated publicity photo) insist she did not kill herself
His mother told the hearing how Aaron met Sophie in May last year on a night out in Newcastle with friends.
In her statement she said: ‘They had gone to town and about 9am the following morning Aaron walked back into the house with a huge cheesy grin on his face and looking very pleased with himself.
‘It transpired this is when he had met Sophie Gradon. They hit it off straight away. Initially he was coy but it became clear the relationship meant an awful lot to him.’
In the days that followed Sophie’s death, Aaron poured out his grief on social media.
The inquest was told that he took a photograph of Sophie up a hill in the Ingram Valley near Morpeth, Northumberland, and built a makeshift memorial to her.
The hearing was told he became ‘withdrawn and quiet’ and was struggling to sleep in the days that followed, sedating himself with sleeping tablets.
In the weeks that followed he spent a lot of time with a close friend, young mum Gemma Mather and had stayed over at her house on the night before he took his own life.
Gemma gave a statement to the inquest saying she had know Aaron two to three months having met through a Facebook post she made asking to have some rubbish cleared from her home.
She said the two were close friends and that Aaron would stay at her home, although she pointed out that they were not in a relationship.
On July 9th he went to a barbecue with Gemma and her young daughter, sleeping the night on the settee at her home, Gemma said.
In a statement she said: ‘I went to bed in my bedroom and Aaron slept on the settee. When I got up to take my daughter to school Aaron had gone.’
He arrived home at 8.30am the following day, going to his room an hour later.
The ruling comes a day after the inquest into Ms Gradon’s death was paused to allow her family’s lawyers to investigate claims she did not take her own life. Pictured: Mr Armstrong and Ms Gradon together
Ms Gradon and her mother, Anastacia Beverhousn, in an undated photo posted on social media
When his mother asked him whether he was OK, she was greeted with a shrug, the inquest was told.
At 11.40am she made the shocking discovery of her son’s body.
Mrs Armstrong sobbed in the hearing as Mr Armstrong read her statement, which said: ‘When I got to the top of the steps I saw Aaron was next to the radiator. His belt was around his neck and the other end was tied to the radiator.
‘I don’t know how I managed it but I got him off the radiator. He was slumped to the side, he was motionless and his lips were blue. I dialled 999.’
The court was told that in 2015 Aaron’s cocaine use reached such a level that his parents were drug testing him.
He had become shaky and struggled to sleep, later confessing he had been using the drug regularly.
Mrs Armstrong said that after 12 months he was clean and she was not aware of him continuing to use the drug after that point.
However the inquest was told that he had enough of the drug, combined with alcohol, to cloud his judgement.
Coroner Mr Armstrong recorded a narrative verdict.
He said: ‘His thinking was muddled by the distress he was feeling at Sophie’s death, the distress at having found her with his brother.
‘The alcohol and cocaine together prevented him thinking rationally about his actions.’
Ms Gradon pictured with her mother in a photo she posted onto social media on Saturday
Mr Armstrong issued a warning about the suicide levels linked to a combination of cocaine and alcohol.
He said: ‘It is the early stages of this research but there appear to be a link which says the consumption of alcohol and cocaine increases the likelihood of someone taking their own life.
‘The figure I have seen quoted is about 16 times more likely.’
Giving his verdict he said: ‘My conclusion is that Aaron David Armstrong having consumed alcohol and cocaine took his own life by hanging.’
Aaron’s parents Donna and David, 55 – a millionaire racehorse owner and shipping freight tycoon – left the hearing without comment.
Sophie’s inquest was due to take pace on Thursday but has been postponed at the request of her family to give them more time to probe what may have happened to her in her final hours.
The family and their lawyers are reading through the coroner’s report and attempting to reconstruct what happened but they do not believe that she committed suicide, as was originally reported after her death.
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