Jury returns suicide verdict

Doctor explains asphyxia by helium inhalation

A Coroner’s Jury returned the verdict of suicide after hearing evidence touching the death of Henry (Hank) Ethelbert Bodden III, 43, whose body was found at his residence in West Bay on Monday, 10 October 2011. 

His state of mind was determined to be clinical depression. 

The statements of friends and relatives indicated Mr. Bodden’s concerns about his job and the break-up of his relationship with a woman to whom he had formed a serious attachment. 

One exhibit was a copy of the letter Mr. Bodden received from his employer’s human resources department. It referred to the company’s expectations from him and it advised that he was being placed on a three-month review “which will expire on 5 December”. The letter concluded, “If there is any particular support you require, we urge you to advise us within five days.” The letter was dated 3 October. 

Another exhibit was a receipt for the rental of a tank of helium and a balloon inflator. It was dated 4 October. 

Coroner Eileen Nervik conducted the inquest on 8 April. She marshalled statements and called witnesses to adopt or alter their statement and answer any questions from the jury. 

Mr. Bodden’s ex-girlfriend said she saw him in the supermarket on Thursday, 6 October, and they spoke briefly. She told the court that her mother had asked Hank to come by on Saturday, 8 October, to help her with her computer printer. He had told her he felt like he was coming down with a cold. 

A friend who saw him on Thursday, 6 October, told the court he said he was having trouble at work. She and her fiancé told him they would look up a programme that would help him learn the software he needed to use, “so when he came by on Friday he was more himself.”  

Mr. Bodden talked with a relative in the US at some length on Saturday, 8 October. The relative told him to come and live with her and her family. 

Mr. Bodden was seen doing laundry on Sunday, 9 October.  

When he did not arrive at work on Monday, 10 October, a colleague phoned several times but got no answer. Police were contacted and asked to make a welfare check. Officers found no sign of force entry; Mr. Bodden’s car was parked nearby. His apartment was locked and the manager was contacted to come and open it. 

Officers entered and found Mr. Bodden lying on his bed with a cylinder similar to a dive tank. 

Government pathologist Shravana Jyoti explained that helium is an inert gas, which is colourless, odourless and noninflammable. 

“The low density of helium gas reduces the effort of breathing when it is included in any gas mixture. It is the simplest agent of asphyxia because oxygen is removed from the blood stream when the lungs are filled with helium … unconsciousness will occur almost immediately and death will ensue in minutes,” Mr. Jyoti stated in his autopsy report. 

A laboratory report showed that the level of alcohol in Mr. Bodden’s blood was .117. In traffic cases, .100 is the legal limit. 

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