A “DEVOTED” father took his own life by causing a gas explosion after suffering with a bout of mental health issues, an inquest has heard.

James Kirkby was found dead on the top of a pile of rubble caused when a blast destroyed his home in Launcelot Close on December 27 last year, hours after texted his ex-partner “goodbye”.

Emergency services were called to King Arthur’s Way to reports of an explosion at 2.30am, where it was found that Mr Kirkby’s house, a home for vulnerable adults, had been destroyed while another was severely damaged.

An inquest in Mr Kirkby’s death today (Tuesday) at Winchester Coroner’s Court was told that an investigation was carried out and it was discovered that he had cut through a pipe feeding to a boiler using a hacksaw blade before lighting a cigarette, which investigator DC Chris Philips may have been "the source of ignition”.

The 48-year-old had suffered a history of depression and alcohol dependency and was being seen by professionals in different services.

In a statement, sister Selina said that Mr Kirkby’s mental health sunk following the break-up of his relationship with Jasmin Coombs, the mother of his daughter Daisy, earlier in 2018.

She said: “I was very worried about him and his mental health. James had started drinking a lot of alcohol in the months leading up to his death. He was unable to work as a taxi driver due to his drinking and mental health. He was struggling to cope with life.”

The inquest was told that on one occasion he said to his mother that he was “going to go and not come back”.

In the months before his death, Mr Kirkby had several appointments at St Mary’s Surgery to discuss his mental health and his anti-depressant prescription, but said he was “feeling better and feeling generally OK”.

GP Ben Sharpe said that he believed that when Mr Kirkby drank he “remained at risk of accidental or impulsive harm”, and he had overdosed using a mixture of alcohol and tablets on three occasions, but had thought about more “violent methods” of taking his own life.

On Christmas Day, two days before the explosion, Mr Kirkby had been to Miss Coomb’s house where he danced and laughed with her three children, and on Boxing Day he had been to see friend Neil Allen.

On the same day Mr Kirkby had found out that his friend Simon Mace, and Jasmin’s mother’s partner, had died in a hospice. In the early hours of December 27 he had called a Coleen Coombs, and was said to be “babbling” but he did not seem intoxicated, the inquest heard.

He also texted Jasmin saying: “Goodbye Jasmin, you need to be there for your mum this minute or don’t bother.”

A post-mortem revealed that Mr Kirkby suffered blast injuries from the gas explosion, and a toxicology test found that he had 166 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – as a reference point, the legal limit for driving is 80.

Senior coroner Grahame Short concluded that Mr Kirkby died as a result of suicide, adding: “I do accept that on previous occasions when he had used threats or had taken an accidental overdose he may have wanted to manipulate Miss Coombs and others.

“The evidence shows he had made previous suicide attempts under the influence of alcohol, I believe this was a factor here.

“It required some planning it wasn’t some he had done without some thought.”

In tribute, Jasmin said: “He [Mr Kirkby] was an absolutely brilliant father, he took my two children on as his own. He was absolutely fantastic with the children, he was devoted to Daisy.

“He was so caring, he would give his last pound that he had on him, he did a lot for a lot of people and he would put everyone else first.”