THE former owner of an Oxford shop hanged himself after battling mental illness, an inquest has heard.

Stephen Cooper, who ran Honest Stationery, in Cowley Road, was found dead in the garden of his home in Crescent Road, Cowley.

The 53-year-old had a history of mental illness dating back to the 1980s, the hearing at Old County Hall on Wednesday was told.

Mr Cooper was discovered by neighbours on March 29.

In documentary evidence read out at the inquest, Dr Richard Stevens of the East Oxford Health Centre said Mr Cooper was initially diagnosed with agitated depression in 1985, though that was later described as obsessional neurosis.

Dr Stevens said Mr Cooper successfully responded to treatment until his mental health deteriorated in 2008. He was admitted to the Priory clinic in North London in June last year.

Dr Stevens said he had last seen his patient on February 13 and was “very surprised and shocked” to hear of his death.

He added: “I formed a close friendly relationship with him and I’m deeply shocked by his death.”

A psychiatrist at the Priory saw Mr Cooper three days before his death and described him as “very peaceful and calm and co-operative”.

When asked about suicidal thoughts, Mr Cooper was said to have replied he did not believe he would act upon them.

The psychiatrist said Mr Cooper “presented as very rational and showed no active symptoms of mental illness” at the time.

The inquest was told Mr Cooper described himself as a perfectionist and kept his mental health issues to himself.

Neighbour Joan Gough, who discovered Mr Cooper, said in a statement: “I think he suffers from depression and was recently going through a phase of being withdrawn. Over the last few days he had been distant.”

Coroner Darren Salter said a hand-written note was found in Mr Cooper’s living room.

He recorded a verdict that Mr Cooper took his own life.