A UNIVERSITY romance which broke down was blamed for the suicide of a high-flying 20-year-old former Ampleforth College student.

Coroner John Broadbridge told an inquest yesterday that James Hugh Ker O'Gorman, of Swathgill Farm, Coulton, near Hovingham, was being treated for depression and the break-up with his girlfriend of 11 months at the University of Durham had been "the tipping point" which resulted in him going to a shed at the family home and killing himself with his double barrelled shotgun.

His tearful father, Bernard, told the hearing at Scarborough that Hugh had attended Gilling Castle and Ampleforth as a day boy before going to Durham where he was in his second year studying biology and medical sciences.

Mr O'Gorman, now of Nether Silton, Thirsk, said his son had shot for Ampleforth, and had achieved great success in his GCSE and A-level examinations. He had had a shotgun certificate since he was either 15 or 16, he added.

He initially enjoyed life at Durham, making friends. But he later began to struggle with his genetics course at university. He was prescribed anti-depressants.

Mr Broadbridge, the deputy North Yorkshire East coroner, asked Mr O'Gorman if he had not been concerned about having firearms in the house because of his son's depression but he replied not. "I felt he was on top of things and never thought he would contemplate anything like that."

Mr Broadbridge added: It is bizarre that he used the weapon he loved."

He then asked Mr O'Gorman why neither he nor Hugh had referred to his illness when renewing their gun certificates. Mr O'Gorman replied: "I don't think I should answer that." He said he did not know what his son had put on his licence application.

On the night he died, Hugh had asked him to give him a hug. "He stood at the end of the kitchen table and told me I will always respect you for all the knocks you have had in your life' and at that he went out."

Mr O'Gorman had seen a light on in an outside shed where he believed his son may have been playing his guitar. The following morning when he saw the light still on and his son's bed not slept in, he found Hugh dead in the building with the gun nearby.

Questioned by the coroner about the possible reasons for his suicide, Mr O'Gorman said: "You can see a broken arm but you can't see the pain inside."

He believed his son was suffering from a sense of desolation.

Earlier, in a statement Hugh's former girlfriend Catherine Jones, a fellow student at Durham, said they broke up because she could not see their relationship making progress.

She knew he had anti-depressant drugs and told his friends who said they would ensure they would watch him. He had contacted her several times asking if they could still be friends.

"He asked if we could get back together and I said no," she added.

Another friend, Jonathan Gardner, said when the relationship foundered Hugh had broken down and even talked of driving his car into a concrete pillar. The last text message he received before his death was from Catherine who said: "I honestly didn't mean to be so cold but I think we both need space."

A Durham GP, Dr Rosemary Cooper, said in a statement that she had advised Hugh to seek help from the university counselling service but added: "I didn't consider him to be suicidal."

He had told her that his parents had split acrimoniously but still lived in the same house. Recording a verdict that he killed himself while suffering from diagnosed depression, Mr Broadbridge said: "The break-up with Catherine was the tipping point to a series of problems he had bottled up for some time. He was a bright, intelligent young man. This is a desperately unhappy set of circumstances."