A HAMPSHIRE father took his own life after borrowing his wife's car and crashing into a tree, an inquest was told.

Philip Hindmarsh had health worries and was also struggling to cope with the lockdown following the closure of the gym where he trained.

The former Marwell Zoo zookeeper was killed in a single-vehicle accident at Portsmouth Road, Lower Upham, on May 30.

He worked at Marwell from 1976 to 2012 and rose to be the head keeper in the carnivore section, looking after the tigers and cheetahs.

Mr Hindmarsh, 62, of Charden Road, Bishopstoke, slipped out of the house before 6am and was killed just five minutes after getting behind the wheel.

Two other drivers who came across the crash said they found the car in the middle of the road surrounded by debris.

Accident investigator Kevin Spiller said the Nissan he was driving suffered "catastrophic" damage in the collision. Mr Hindmarsh was not wearing a seatbelt when the vehicle left the road and hit a tree.

A post-mortem examination confirmed he died from chest and abdominal injuries.

Tests showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system and there was no evidence he had suffered a heart attack, the inquest was told.

In weeks leading up to his death he had experienced several health problems, including stomach pains, anxiety and insomnia.

Mr Hindmarsh was working as a groundsman at Wildern School in Wildern Lane, Hedge End, at the time of his death.

His widow Annabel said her husband was a successful bodybuilder whose gym had closed during the lockdown, leaving him unable to train successfully. Wildern School was also shut but he was still able to go to work, she said.

Senior coroner Chris Wilkinson recorded a conclusion that Mr Hindmarsh took his own life while suffering from acute anxiety.

He added: "Philip was a very regimented man, a perfectionist with an attention to detail. It's clear he was struggling as a result of the lockdown. He had lost his routine.

"We will never know what was going through Philip's mind at the time of his death."

After recording his conclusion Mr Wilkinson said: "It's not something he would ever have done had he been in a right and fit state of mind."

Addressing Mr Hindmarsh's family he added: "In those last few days he was not the Philip you knew."

In a statement issued a few days after his death his family described him as a devoted father and a loving husband and son.

They said: “Philip, a man that simply cannot be captured in words, an enormous loss to so many whose hearts he touched.

“He was ‘Big Phil’ to some, ‘The Cat Man’ to many but to us he was just simply Daddy Bear.

“The hole in our hearts will never be filled but the legacy you leave will never be forgotten.

“The man who had all the time in the world yet still managed to be late for everything.

"Never too busy to stop, talk, and listen to anyone and everyone, offering kind words and advice to those in need.

“An inspiration, a legend, one in a billion.”