St John’s Wood man died hacking off his own legs

Help came too late for desperate paraplegic who bled to death after trying to cut his legs off with a hacksaw

A ST JOHN’S WOOD man bled to death while trying to slice his legs off with a hacksaw – a decade after they were rendered “useless” in a shooting incident, a court has heard.

Barrie Hepburn, 65, was found dead in his Lorne Close home last August after calling 999 to alert them he had “severed his legs” and was “bleeding to death”.

The retired property consultant, married for 25 years to Harley Street celebrity hypnotherapist Susan Hepburn, lost use of his legs after being shot three times by an angry neighbour while at their French holiday home.

On Tuesday, Westminster Coroners Court heard Mr Hepburn resorted to self-amputation after becoming increasingly irate at what he branded his “useless, heavy legs” which were reducing his independence.

Mr Hepburn alerted emergency services to his self-amputation just after 2pm on August 29 but paramedics arrived to find him dead in his wheelchair in the kitchen.

Paramedic Gary Allsop said: “Around him on the floor there was newspaper scattered and quite a lot of blood was on it.

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“Embedded in the right leg was a hacksaw that was sawn into the leg and there was also another cut the same size on the other side of his leg that appeared to have been made by the same saw.”

The court heard a tourniquet had been tied round his right leg to reduce bleeding and a blood-covered Stanley knife was found on the counter.

A bag was also found in the hallway containing a Sunday newspaper, a car magazine, some fruit and some cakes which Mr Hepburn had packed to last him the first few days in hospital, where he thought he would be taken once the ambulance arrived.

Mrs Hepburn had cancelled trips to visit her son in America three times in the preceding weeks, concerned that her husband might attempt self-amputation. But she was in the US at the time of his death having sought assurance he wouldn’t sever his legs.

The court heard Mr Hepburn had been shot after a dispute with a neighbour in France over the couple’s dog. He was not initially expected to survive but recovered after six months in hospital.

Mrs Hepburn told the court her husband attempted to commit suicide by opiate overdose three times in the years after the shooting but then found “a new lease of life” when he “realised how close to death he had come”.

Although Mr Hepburn did mention self-amputation in the early years of his paraplegia, the court heard he did not discuss it again until developing an infected sore last summer.

At the same time he was awarded compensation for the shooting and bought himself a new home and Jaguar car, modified for his use – but he couldn’t get in unaided.

The court heard he started to consider cutting off his legs and showed his wife videos of people performing self-amputation on the internet.

He believed that if he severed one leg and called the ambulance he could sever the other before it arrived and he would be rushed to surgery.

He told his GP he would only agree to hospital treatment for the sore if surgeons also amputated his legs, otherwise he would do it himself.

A meeting with psychiatrist Dr Leena Reddy was arranged but Mrs Hepburn told the court that Dr Reddy didn’t think he was being serious and asked “irrelevant” questions.

She said: “I emphasised that Barrie was capable of going through with his threats and so something should be done to stop him.

“She didn’t seem to be alarmed that Barrie might do this.”

Dr Reddy agreed to see Mr Hepburn over the next two years to see if he still wanted to have his legs amputated – a plan Mr Hepburn agreed to but privately told his wife he wouldn’t attend.

On hearing of her husband’s death, Mrs Hepburn said: “I couldn’t speak. I was just completely devastated.

“Why would he think he could amputate his own legs and a plastic tourniquet would be enough? He was so intelligent. I would have hoped he would know what would happen.”

The inquest was adjourned until June 22 to hear evidence from Dr Reddy.