UCL professor Jon Driver killed himself as he struggled with fears he would lose his job

14:00 05 April 2012

Professor Jonathon Driver

Professor Jonathon Driver

Archant

A world renowned neuroscientist killed himself by jumping off Archway Bridge after struggling with a debilitating knee injury he feared would leave him jobless.

Professor Jonathon Driver, 49, was an expert in cognitive neuroscience based at UCL, and one of just six scientists across the world with a Royal Society Anniversary Research Professorship – a coveted post held by many Nobel Prize winners.

But he was left in constant pain after dislocating his knee in a motorbike accident in January last year.

Prof Driver, of Sandringham Gardens in Crouch End, began struggling to cope with his academic work, and grew concerned he was becoming a burden to his young family.

“I’ve known Jon for 20 years and I’d never, ever seen him depressed or down before the accident,” his wife Professor Nilli Lavie, told an inquest into his death on Monday (April 2).

“He was a very energetic, positive doer of a person, there was a lot of life force in him.”

But St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard how his energy turned to despair as his injuries prevented the father-of-two from returning to work or coaching his son’s football club.

Prof Lavie, who worked alongside her husband at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: “There was a period when he couldn’t sleep for three weeks. During those sleepless nights he would go over and over the accident in his mind.

“His work depended on his intellectual ability. It was clear to Jon that he wouldn’t be able to manage the expectations as a Royal Society professor.

“He was a very honest person, if he was not able to fulfil those expectations he would withdraw from the appointment.

“But he feared he would become jobless. He felt he would not be able to get any job interviews because it was clear he was in so much pain.”

Blinking back tears as she relived her husband’s final months, she added: “He could see the burden it placed on me. I had to keep my job, play the role of two parents to the kids and look after him as well.”

Prof Driver underwent two operations to increase his knee mobility, but developed intense neuropathic pain in his right leg.

During the summer the neuroscientist was diagnosed with depression, insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder, and placed on antidepressants.

His wife grew increasingly alarmed at her husband’s mental state the weekend before his death on November 28 last year, after he confided he had considered killing himself.

Worried his state had reached a crisis point, Prof Lavie desperately called his psychiatrist to discuss putting her husband on suicide watch.

But Prof Driver had taken matters into his own hands and plunged the 60ft from Archway Bridge in Highgate at 12.30pm on November 28. He died of multiple injuries at the scene.

Deputy coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe ruled that Prof Driver killed himself.

She said: “He was such a highly functioning individual who clearly understood what he was doing.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest Crime news

Friday, March 27, 2015
The news means at least nine girls travelled to, or wanted to travel to, Syria after attending the coeducational academy [Image from Google StreetView]

The High Court has banned five teenage girls from travelling abroad after they expressed an interest in going to Syria – just weeks after three of their schoolmates left to join the Islamic State.

Friday, March 27, 2015
Mr Packman went missing from the Dennis Scott Unit of Edgware Community Hospital in 2012 [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

A young man who was receiving treatment at a mental health unit in Enfield has absconded, and police have warned the public not to approach Joshua Packman if they see him.

Friday, March 27, 2015
McDonagh has been jailed for four years [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

A conman has been jailed for locking a 90-year-old man in his basement in order to burgle his Fulham home.

Friday, March 27, 2015
Do you know this man? [Photograph from British Transport Police]

Police are hunting a thug who attacked a 17-year-old boy with half a brick on a train journey from Crystal Palace to East Dulwich - then snatched a man’s phone in West Norwood station.

Thursday, March 26, 2015
Mohammed Yasser Afzal

The man accused of murdering a minicab controller admitted in a typed letter found in his pocket that he killed him “because of his own crazy feelings”, a court heard today.

Thursday, March 26, 2015
Demetris Costa Hapeshi used the University's database to get a student's phone number  [Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

A lecturer who discussed sex toys with his students - and even kissed one of them - is fit to carry on working, a tribunal has ruled.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...