CORNWALL, ENGLAND — A millionaire aristocrat, depressed by the stress of managing his 1,500-acre country estate, killed himself with a shotgun at his home in Cornwall, an inquest was told yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arscott Molesworth-St Aubyn, 71, the 15th baronet, was found dead in the butler's pantry in the early hours of April 22 at Pencarrow, his 12-bedroom Georgian mansion near Bodmin. He had killed himself with a single shot from a shotgun.

Sir Arscott, an Old Etonian who served with the Royal Green Jackets, owned property valued at £41 million but had struggled for years to manage it successfully. His family, which founded what is now Lloyds Bank, has owned Pencarrow since the 16th century.

Last year Pencarrow Mansion won a National Heritage Award for its upkeep.

The inquest was told that with his wife Iona, 63, he had restored Pencarrow and opened it to the public. But he found income from his estates was often not enough to sustain its upkeep. He had suffered from depression for 14 years, and had been seen by his family doctor hours before his death.

His widow was not at the inquest, but said in a statement read to the coroner that her husband's massive workload in managing Pencarrow was to blame for his suicide. "He was working so hard he became run-down and his many outside interests added to an already heavy workload.

"He was incapable of allowing himself to relax and in 1984 he became very anxious and depressed and was referred to a London hospital for treatment, after which he had several relapses."

Sir Arscott had been having one such "bad week" when he died, she said. He had seen John Barker, the local GP [general practioner], the day before he was found dead. "My husband appeared to be better than earlier in the week and the doctor told him he should try not to do any work and to take a break. My husband did not really talk very much about it and we had a peaceful dinner and read the newspapers."

Sir Arscott had gone to bed at about midnight, but his wife had woken at 2.38am and found her husband was not in bed. She had gone to look for him and found his body in the butler's pantry.

Recording a verdict of suicide, David Bruce, the East Cornwall Coroner, said: "The deceased was a hard-working man who unfortunately suffered from a depressive illness which eventually drove him to take his own life. His intention to do so was totally clear from his actions."

Sir Arscott's son and heir, William Molesworth-St Aubyn, 39, said after the hearing: "The family are just glad this is over so we can get on with trying to pull together the pieces. We still have not decided what is to happen about the estate. There is no question my father was suffering from depression."

Last year Pencarrow won a National Heritage Award for its upkeep.


What If It Was Your Dad?:, Oct 28, 1999
  A son's complaint.