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.”

Latest Stories

Yesterday, 15:03
Dynamo spotted by Steve Spencer

Fans of magician Dynamo were delighted by his latest trick: appearing to ‘levitate’ from The Shard near London Bridge.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:13
Undated handout photo issued by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home of Bless with Geoff and Sylvia Shoesmith, of Chelmsford, Essex. The mournful-looking stray which was thought to be putting potential adopters off with her hangdog expression has finally found a home.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday August 27, 2014. Bless was the most long-term resident at Battersea, with staff believing the lack of interest was down to the doleful dog's permanently sad expression. But following publicity, the Shoesmiths leapt at the chance to take the six-year-old in after being drawn to her loving personality and calm, kindly temperament.  See PA story ANIMALS Sad. Photo credit should read: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home /PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A frowning dog can wag her tail again after our plea to find her a new owner was a success!

Read more
Yesterday, 18:25
Lilian Jean Turner  was seen wearing a white blouse embroidered with flowers, black trousers and white sandals and also had a walking stick and holdall with her [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

Police are increasingly worried about an 85-year-old woman who went missing in Penge on Wednesday morning.

Read more

Quirky London

Quizzes

I'm only going to say this once: Stand. On. The. Right.

James Bond is Britain’s most famous secret agent, and the capital is its most famous city, so it makes sense that 007 would live and work here when he isn’t gallivanting around the world.

Read more
Can you find the animals hiding in London station names? (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

You may not realise it but there are animals hiding in stations across London? Play our quiz and see if you can you find them:

Read more
Can you guess the Tube station just from the outside? (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

How well do you know your Tube stations? Can you guess these Underground stops from the pictures taken outside them?

Read more