Stephen’s death by e-mail

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A CALDERDALE man took his own life in a suicide pact with a virtual stranger.

Stephen Lumb, 35, from Charles Street, Sowerby Bridge, died in a fume-flled car alongside Joanne Lee, 34.

They had met on an internet suicide forum and planned their deaths by e-mail in a matter of hours, an inquest heard.

Stephen and Joanne, from Great Braintree, Essex, were found dead last September.

Detective Inspector Richard Thomas, from Essex Police, told an inquest in Chelmsford the pair discussed in detail where they would meet and how they would take their own lives. Both died of poisoning. Recording a verdict of suicide, Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said the deaths were premeditated and the pair were willing.

The hearing was told Joanne wrote on an internet suicide forum on September 4: “I haven’t the strength to do this alone.”

Within days it is believed she and Stephen made contact.

It is thought they met in person for the first time only hours before they died.

The pair were found dead in a fume-flled car near a deserted industrial estate in Braintree, Essex.

Notices were plasted on the car windows, warning rescuers there were toxic fumes inside.

In both cases, loved ones were left devastated by their deaths.

Stephen’s father Melvyn said he had no idea his son might be contemplating suicide. He described him as a normal lad.

“He didn’t seem any different. He had the same mannerisms. And I didn’t know her. I knew nothing about her,” he said.

Described as reclusive by neighbours, Miss Lee, from Great Notley, had fought a long battle against depression and low self-esteem.

She had an eating disorder which had developed into anorexia nervosa.

The case threw into the public eye the dangers of internet sites that connect suicidal people with one another.

Using their own language and codewords, users provide encouragement and advice to vulnerable people, often individuals with a complex history of mental illness.

Charities fear the sites bring together people who would not seriously consider suicide alone.

Brooks Newmark, the Conservative MP for Braintree, said action should be taken to close down the “darker side” of the internet. The law was amended in 2009, making it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or attempted suicide of another person.