Ebbw Vale PC in probe was killed by poison gas
A VALLEYS street had to be closed after a Gwent Police officer killed himself by mixing household chemicals to produce an acidic gas.
Gwent Coroner's Court, sitting in Newport, heard PC Rowan Helps, 32, was under investigation at the time for alleged dishonesty, deception and perverting the course of justice.
PC Helps, who was suspended over concerns about some of his arrests, was found dead on his bail date of October 3, 2012, in the downstairs toilet of his home in Lilian Grove, Ebbw Vale.
The street was closed off between 2pm and 7.30pm after police and paramedics went to the house of PC Helps, who worked in the Ebbw Vale north neighbourhood response team.
PC Helps was under investigation by the force's professional standards department after being suspended in May 2012 over allegations of dishonesty, deception and perverting the course of justice, the inquest was told.
A statement from his mother, Susan Williams, said he found this period "very difficult"
His former partner, Christine Cook, said she met PC Helps when she was a Community Support Officer based in Abertillery in October 2010.
Her statement said PC Helps had been collecting money for Help for Heroes and had taken part in a walk around Bryn Bach Park, Tredegar.
PC Helps moved into Miss Cook's house shortly after he was arrested over allegations made against him about money he raised for charity - claims he regarded as malicious.
She said their relationship went from bad to worse and asked PC Helps to move out on August 19.
A statement from next door neighbour Colin Morgan said PC Helps told him he had been arrested over taking funds from Help for Heroes but said he had nothing to do with it.
He said the PC was more upset about his split from Miss Cook, whom he described as "the one for him" than the suspension and police investigation.
Mr Morgan said six or seven weeks prior to his death, PC Helps bought acid online and said he was going to use it to clean his garden path.
On September 30, PC Helps sent Miss Cook a message on Skype saying he 'couldn't go without saying goodbye' and he was sorry for everything. Miss Cook sent him a text saying she had forgiven him and hoped they could be friends.
On October 3, Mr Morgan and PC Helps' stepfather knocked on his door after police officers had come round in connection with his bail and got no response.
They unlocked the back door and searched the house before finding PC Helps slumped on the floor in the downstairs toilet. Mr Morgan said there was a strong smell of sulphur and a bucket close by.
On top of the toilet cistern, his wallet was open, showing a picture of Miss Cook.
A post mortem examination revealed his death was caused by hydrogen sulphide toxicity. The inquest heard, in small quantities, this is not toxic, but the amount found here amounted to a strong acid with a pH value of one which would have the same effect as cyanide.
Gwent Coroner David Bowen said, individually, the household chemicals found in the bathroom are not hazardous to health, but, when combined, they produce the chemical reaction which proved fatal.
The verdict was PC Helps killed himself.
Light will ‘ shine forever in our hearts’
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Williams said: "The family accepts the decision of the coroner and would like to take this opportunity to thanks family and friends, with special thanks to Nicola and Lisa, family liaison officers, for their continued support as we as a family endeavour to come to terms with the tragic loss of Rowan, the lights of whose life will shine forever in our hearts."
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it had a referral about PC Helps which was returned to Gwent Police for investigation.
Gwent Police Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said: "Our condolences and thoughts remain with Rowan's family and friends at this difficult time. Rowan was under investigation at the time of his death, however that matter has now been finalised and closed."