THE wife of a popular gamekeeper who shot himself in the head with a shotgun told an inquest she believed it was “death by harassment”.

John Spurling, who died in January, aged 75, was well known for the game shoots he ran in Elmley Lovett, near Droitwich, for 25 years.

Property developer David Payne, who owned the house and land where Mr Spurling lived and worked, had cancelled a shoot at very short notice and said he was giving up shooting altogether.

When Mr Spurling asked what to do with the 150 ducks which he had been looking after for the shoot, he was told by Mr Payne to “shoot them or feed them”.

His company, David Payne Homes, of Bromsgrove, went into administration soon after Mr Spurling’s death.

Alma Spurling, aged 74, told an inquest at Stourport Coroner’s Court he was very worried about the situation.

She said how Mr Payne also ordered her husband to remove all shooting equipment from his land and told him he was not to use a tractor to take food to ducks on the lake.

She said: “John began to think because David Payne owned the house we would be thrown out.

“He kept telling me how worried he was but I never thought anything like this would happen.

“He said, ‘oh dear, oh dear, I’m looking down a black tunnel and I can’t see any light, all these problems will go away if I’m not here.’ “But he wasn’t the type of person to do anything like this, it was completely out of character.”

Mr Spurling was diagnosed with depression and on Friday, January 30, his wife went to pick up his medication.

As she returned she heard two gun shots being fired but could not find him anywhere in the house or down by the lake. Their daughter Christine came round to help look for him and after searching the surrounding fields, found him on the ground.

Mr Spurling had also shot his two labradors.

Worcestershire Coroner Geraint Williams said the medical cause of death was a shotgun blast injury to the head.

As Mr Williams was about to record his verdict, Mrs Spurling said: “I know you can’t say it, but it was death by harassment, he was pushed to the edge.”

Mr Williams’ said Mr Spurling took his own life and explained to the family it was not a coroner’s job to lay blame on anyone for the circumstances leading up to a person’s death.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Spurling said: “John was a wonderful man, he was straight and honest, he loved his job and was one of the best gamekeepers in the country.

“Over 500 people attended his funeral which shows just how much he was loved and will be missed by everyone who knew him.”

Mr Spurling joined the Navy after leaving school and was awarded a commendation for rescuing a ship mate from freezing arctic waters.

He also leaves three daughters and four grandchildren.

David Payne was unavailable for comment.