TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Winchester primary school head teacher who took his own life.

Matt O'Brien, who taught at John Keble Primary School in Hursley and Nightingale in Eastleigh, died at his home from helium poisoning at the end of March, an inquest heard.

The 47-year-old was found at his home at Winchester Road, Alresford by his wife, Caroline, after she returned home from a friend's party.

In a witness statement, which was read aloud during the hearing, his wife said during their early years together Mr O'Brien was very supportive.

She said: “He was a very charming man. All persons who knew him were very fond of him.”

The couple married in 2007 and, soon after, Mr O'Brien became head teacher at Nightingale Primary School.

However, a short time later his mother died and his wife noticed a change in his behaviour.

She said he had become obsessed with tidiness and had complained about sleep deprivation and feelings of anxiety. Despite her pleas, Mrs O'Brien said her husband refused to seek professional treatment.

“Due to his mood swings I told him to go to his doctor. He would often sleep for over 12 hours and wake up moaning of tiredness. I was really beginning to worry about his flip between positive and negative moods.

“We had three kids that kept me going but Matt would often be down and think he wasn't a good father or husband.”

The day he died, Mrs O'Brien said she remembers looking at him thinking he was “skinny, gaunt with long hair” as he waived them goodbye from the driveway.

“This was the last time I saw Matt alive,” she said.

She had taken the children out before returning home at 7.30pm. She put them to bed and kept herself occupied downstairs after having seen their bedroom door was closed. She said it was not uncommon for Mr O'Brien to shut himself away in the months leading to his death.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Central Hampshire Coroner Grahame Short, said: “I find that this was a deliberate and planned act. I'm sure he intended to take his own life and also that no one else was involved with his actions.

“I give you all my sympathy,” he added. “It was clearly a great shock to all concerned particularly to his wife.”

Mr O'Brien also leaves behind their three children Manny, Aura and Ivy.