An inquest into the death of the Welsh Assembly member began and was adjourned today in Ruthin, North Wales after concluding that he hanged himself. The inquest heard that Sargeant left a note for his wife at their home in Connah’s Quay on Tuesday, telling her not to open their laundry door and to call the police.
His wife Bernie, 48, ignored her husband’s request and entered the room where she discovered his body. Paramedics and police were called but the 49-year old could not be revived.
The former children and communities secretary killed himself just four days after he was stood down over sexual misconduct allegations.
Sargeant was stood down before the details of the allegations made against him had been revealed.
In his opening remarks, Coroner John Gittens told the inquest that his duty is to establish cause of death or reasons for suicide – not to investigate the accusations made against Sargeant.
“It is quite simply not my role to apportion fault, blame or responsibility,” Gittens said. “My inquest will not consider the veracity of the allegations made against Carl Sargeant.”
The inquest comes as First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones was accused of cultivating a “toxic environment” where bullying was rife. Jones is now facing pressure to step down from his role as leader of the Welsh Government.
Steve Jones worked as a special advisor for Carwyn Jones from 2009 to 2014, telling the Daily Mail that the “poison” mind games used against ministers such as Sargeant were a distraction from the business of governing Wales.
“Soon after I arrived to work for Carwyn after his election as First Minister in 2009, it was clear that I was entering a toxic environment,” he said.
“The atmosphere that existed on the fifth floor and in particular the First Minister’s Office was one of fear and loathing. I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to politics. Prior to moving to Cardiff Bay, I worked as a special adviser to the Government Chief Whip at Westminster. I was fully accustomed to the rough and tumble of politics at the very highest level.
“But the behaviour of some at the top of the Welsh Government was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was pure poison,” he added.
The Welsh Labour leader has been under pressure to launch an inquiry into his handling of the allegations against Carl Sargeant. The grieving Sargeant family have now hit out at Jones, calling for a full, independent inquiry to be established into their loved one’s final days in the party.
The family said the way the party had handled situation had“serious failings.”
“An independent inquiry will ask all the questions that need to be asked and have not been answered and will determine the reasons for the serious failings in following the correct procedures, practices and protocols and the reasons for the complete abdication of responsibility and duty of care that was owed to Carl,” the family said in a statement.
“We believe that a full independent inquiry must be established immediately. Its terms of reference, the appointment of the chair and secretariat must be undertaken by a body which is fully independent of the Welsh Government and in consultation with the family.”