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Paedophile hunt man killed himself
A man snared by an internet "paedophile hunter" after being duped into believing he was meeting a young girl for sex took his own life just days after police had questioned him.
Michael Parkes, 45, was confronted and filmed in May last year by Stinson Hunter, who had arranged to meet him after posing as a child online.
Hunter - whose real name is Keiren Parsons - has caused controversy by posting the videos of his meetings online, including that of Mr Parkes, and has been criticised by police forces for his methods.
At an inquest held today into Mr Parkes' death on June 2, 2013, the senior coroner for Northamptonshire Anne Pember recorded a verdict of suicide, with cause of death as hanging.
She concluded Mr Parkes, a warehouse manager and father-of-one, was "feeling low and depressed" at the time of his death.
"He made the decision he no longer wished to live," said Mrs Pember. "He killed himself."
In a statement after the inquest, Northamptonshire Police who arrested Mr Parkes on May 29 last year on suspicion of meeting someone he thought to be a 12-year-old girl for sex, said it would have sought a charging decision based on the evidence supporting the allegation.
A force spokesman also said: "It is clear that Parkes drove to Coventry with the intention of engaging in sexual activity with a child."
However, the police went on to say they did not condone Mr Parsons' actions and said investigating wrong-doing was best left to police.
During the inquest at Northampton General Hospital, the court was told that Mr Parkes was found dead in his car with a ligature around his neck.
Police inspector Carol Fullerton was called to the scene by the fire brigade who had been responding to reports of a car fire at the location off Welton Road, near Daventry.
When she arrived she found Mr Parkes' "apparently lifeless body slumped across the front seats of the car".
Mr Parkes, identified at the scene from a driving licence and bank cards, was removed from the car where a passing doctor led efforts to resuscitate him.
Despite their attempts, Mr Parkes, who lived with his mother in Daventry, died at the scene at 1.26pm.
Ms Fullerton, who was aware of Mr Parkes' arrest over the child grooming allegation, then radioed headquarters telling them to inform Northamptonshire Police's professional standards department.
The court also heard evidence from GP Dr Alexander Wennekes who said he had prescribed anti-depressants on and off to Mr Parkes over recent years, for bouts of work-related stress and depression.
Dr Wennekes stated that earlier in 2013 Mr Parkes got in touch with the surgery complaining of feeling depressed after splitting from his partner of three years while she was pregnant with their son.
On May 30, that year, he said Mr Parkes - who also had a wife from whom he had been separated for some years - again contacted the surgery saying he was suffering depression.
"When I saw him he said he was going through a bad patch, had financial difficulties, no access to his son and had been arrested by the police on what he said were false allegations - however he did not explain further," said Dr Wennekes.
He added: "He admitted to some morbid thoughts but had no plans or intentions in that area, and was keen to restart anti-depressants and wanted something 'to feel a bit calmer'."
Dr Wennekes prescribed anti-depressants and diazepam and Mr Parkes later booked himself in for a follow-up appointment scheduled for the following week.
A long-term friend of Mr Parkes, Caroline Elston, said she received a text from him without explanation which simply read "sorry", the day before his death.
When she queried the message by text, however, she got no response.
Richard Parkes, his brother, said Mr Parkes' arrest had upset him and "had a significant effect on his state of mind and the actions he had taken".
Following the inquest, asked what he felt about the police investigation and the involvement of Mr Parsons, he replied: "The police have not provided me with any evidence that supports these allegations."
He paid tribute to Mr Parkes and said: "Michael's family are deeply shocked by his death .
"He was a loving father, son and brother and a caring person who put his family and others first."
Northamptonshire Police offered its condolences to Mr Parkes' family.
"We have a duty to investigate and respond to child abuse allegations," a spokesman for the force said.
"A decision to arrest Parkes was made when it became clear from the material supplied to us that he believed the age of the person he was in communication with was 12-years-old.
"It is also clear that Parkes drove to Coventry with the intention of engaging in sexual activity with a child.
"In the light of Parkes' subsequent death, a thorough review was carried out and it is clear that it would have passed the threshold test and that Northamptonshire Police would have sought a CPS charging decision."
The spokesman added: "We do not condone or support the actions of Stinson Hunter.
"Identifying alleged paedophiles is best left to the police and suspected incidences of online grooming should be reported to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)."
Separately, Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police issued a joint statement yesterday stating they do not condone Mr Parsons' methods and adding that his actions "could have several serious consequences", including compromising continuing investigations.
The Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and West Mercia forces have all reiterated the advice of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) on the topic of members of the public attempting to ensnare those they claim are out to commit sex offences against children.
Acpo has previously stated: "We understand the desire to protect children but any member of the public who has information about child sexual abuse, online or otherwise, should get in contact with the police so we can investigate and bring people to justice."
Jon Brown, the NSPCC's lead for tackling sexual abuse, said: "Whilst we have every sympathy for concerned members of the public, tracking down sex offenders must be done by the proper authorities.
"It's possible that people could get hurt or that a delicate and complex ongoing investigation could be jeopardised and children put at greater risk.
"But parents do have a key role to play in protecting their children from online grooming and abuse. The best way they can do this is by ensuring their children know how to use the internet safely."