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Former jockey James Banks took his life after losing home, inquest hears

James Banks: was described as a popular and outgoing member of the weighing room
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Former jockey James Banks was a popular and outgoing member of the weighing room who tragically took his own life after losing his home and going bankrupt, an inquest heard on Thursday.

A note was discovered by James Banks' boss after he failed to turn up for work at a stables in the Cotswolds where he had been head lad since his final race two years earlier, Gloucestershire coroners court was told.

Banks, 36, was living in a cottage provided by his boss, Jane Arnold, and it was there she found the note on the morning of February 3 when she went to check on him after he failed to turn up for work.

In the note, he asked the finder not go to upstairs and to call the police.

Officers arrived and found him dead upstairs. There was a large handwritten note dated October 12, 2019 by the body outlining his suicidal thoughts. Police were satisfied the death was not suspicious.

Gloucestershire coroner Katie Skerrett said: "In the handwritten note Mr Banks refers to his mental health difficulties and the personal struggles he was dealing with at the time.

"He explains that he'd lost his home and that he had been made bankrupt. There are clear references to suicidal thinking. It looks like he had been having these thoughts for some time but had not sought any help.

"He stated that he was disappointed with himself as he had made a mess of everything.

"It looks like he couldn’t cope anymore and he apologises to those dearest to him."

The coroner added: "It seems the only help he requested was from his GP, who diagnosed him as being depressed. He had not sought help from mental illness services."

The inquest heard that Banks had gone to France to rebuild his life with his girlfriend, but this relationship broke down and he returned to Britain.

The court was told that Banks had a history of alcohol abuse, but he had been dry for some time when he died.

A toxicologist confirmed to the inquest that there were no drugs or alcohol in Banks' system.

Banks, whose grandfather Terry Stringer was a Flat jockey and his father Martin an assistant and pre-trainer, rode 85 winners in a career that started on the Flat and developed as an amateur rider before graduating to the senior ranks.

After his retirement from riding, Banks initially worked for Lambourn-based trainer Clive Cox.

Among the tributes paid was one from Emma-Jane Bishop, for whom Banks rode 17 winners. She said: "James was part of the family, a part of my life for a long time and like a brother to me.

"He'd ridden most of our horses in his career and came back to us to help out last August."

Cox said: "James was always good fun and rode out for us for many years and came to work for us for a while when he finished riding."

Jockey Wayne Hutchinson said: "James was a top guy and always made you laugh. He was a really bubbly person to be around and a fantastic human being.

"He put a smile on everyone’s face and was a really outgoing person. He was someone who made others happy."

Tom Scudamore said: "James was a lot of fun to be around and was extremely popular in the weighing room. You certainly wouldn't have called him shy and retiring and he was quite a character.

"He was one of those people you were always happy to see. He was a good jockey and gave everything a ride."

The Injured Jockeys Fund and Professional Jockeys Association said in a statement: "James was an immensely popular member of the weighing room and remained so since his retirement.

"This has been so clearly demonstrated by the tributes from his friends and colleagues. He worked extremely hard and was passionate about and dedicated to his craft.

"He had an infectious personality with a sharp sense of humour and that is the James we will all remember.

"Underneath this outgoing exterior James had issues that he bravely tried to address. He had the support of a loving family and was aware of and had engaged with the extensive support available to current and former professional riders.

"He will be greatly missed by a significant number of people whose lives he touched."

James was a top guy and always made you laugh. He was a really bubbly person to be around and a fantastic human being
E.W. Terms