A MAN had starved himself of food and drink ahead of taking his own life on moors above Saddleworth, an inquest has heard.

Bernard Gaunt 51, of Werneth Hall Road, was reported missing to police on January 26, this year and a massive search was launched to find him.

Mr Gaunt’s mother Margaret told the hearing in Heywood that her son, who was one of nine children, left St Anselm’s Secondary, Oldham and went working as a pallet maker and later as a pillow packer.

She said that Bernard was a bright lad who was looking for more from life and had subsequently joined a Krishna temple in Manchester and had even learned to speak Urdu.

She said he worked as a chef there and for 10 years cooked and delivered food to the homeless in Manchester in a van.

She said: “In 1998 he moved back home but he couldn’t find a path in life. He found it difficult to go out and he was upset with people’s behaviour. He got angry while watching TV and his life and all sorts of things going on in the world.”

Mrs Gaunt said Bernard grew increasingly depressed and refused to see anybody including GPs because he feared being psycho-analysed and often shut himself away in his bedroom for days and weeks at a time. His condition was later diagnosed as being similar to Asperger’s syndrome. It was said when he was depressed he would sometimes walk in isolation over the moors.

On the day he disappeared, his sister and mother had gone to his room to ask him to help correct a problem with the downstairs television. They found an empty bedroom and a five-page note on his chest of drawers explaining what he was intending to do.

A police search nearby at Werneth Park and the surrounding area failed to find Bernard, but a day later on January 27, his nephew Lewis Gaunt went looking for him up by Dovestone Reservoir.

In a statement read out by Julie Robertson, the assistant Rochdale coroner, Lewis spotted Bernard and engaged him in conversation and alerted police that he had found him.

Lewis said that Bernard was angry that he had contacted police and feared he would be detained and despite his efforts to persuade him to come down, he refused.

While speaking to police Lewis lost sight of Bernard who ran away before disappearing for the final time.

A massive search involving mountain rescue and other teams including dogs and horses was launched to track him down but was abandoned on that day due to low cloud and the cold and wintry conditions closing in. The search was resumed on January 28, in which a helicopter was brought in, but failed to locate him.

His body was eventually found by a moorland runner, who spotted him face down and partially covered in heather, above Dovestone Reservoir, on February 18.

His body was found at the end of a 45-minute trek way from where Lewis had last encountered him down a treacherous gully.

The inquest heard that Bernard had been a strict follower of Krishna and as such did not want to end his life by violent means and had starved himself prior to going missing as a means of eventually ending his life.

When he was found he had a Krishna bible and beads on him.

Consultant pathologist Emil Salmo changed his mind on the outcome of the reason why Mr Gaunt had died from "inconclusive" to one of "fatal hypothermia" after hearing from a police witness to the freezing conditions he had been found in.

Concluding, Ms Robertson said that police and other search teams had worked relentlessly to find him in a challenging environment to find him.

She added: “I find that there is clear evidence that he decided to end his own life. His death was not a violent one, which took into account his religion. He died at his own hand and he intended to take his own life and the conclusion is suicide.”