Millionaire’s son, 36, took his own life by weighing himself down with concrete blocks and chains before jumping into the Thames after struggle with drug addiction, inquest hears
A millionaire’s son took his own life by weighing himself down with concrete blocks and chains before jumping into the River Thames after his struggle with drug addiction, an inquest has heard.
Alexander Stern was reported missing by his family, including father Ronald Stern – a stationery tycoon who owns one of Britain’s top Ferrari collections – three days after he disappeared on January 11, a coroner said.
The 36-year-old had taken a £120 taxi ride from London to the upmarket Berkshire village of Sonning and was last seen in a pub, the coroner was told.
Police investigators had discovered a rucksack containing Mr Stern’s belongings but there was initially no sign of him.
But the wealthy young man’s body then floated to the surface of the water 1.3miles downstream and was seen by a canoeist on April 4 last year.
Between 2016 and 2019, Mr Stern used a ‘substantial’ inheritance he had received from his grandmother to go travelling in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and also South America, where he was believed to have taken drugs which altered his mental state, his mother Susan said.
The inquest heard how Mr Stern started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings on his return to London in September 2019 and was diagnosed with ADHD and an emotionally unstable personality disorder.
In early January last year, Mr Stern had told his mother that he had taken multiple taxis into the city and stood at a bridge but, she said in his words, ‘did not have the guts to kill himself’.
Mrs Stern added: ‘Over the last six weeks or so, I felt he was weighing up suicide or a new beginning.
‘He ran out of energy and options and realised the extent of his emptiness. Ronald and I would never have abandoned Alex.’
Mr Stern’s unusual lifestyle was also outlined to the coroner by his mother, who told the inquest how her son had struggled with an ‘inability to differentiate fact from fiction’ which had played out into his adult life.
As a child, Mr Stern was described by his mother as ‘sociable, interested in nature and in particular the stage show of The Wind in the Willows resonated strongly with him.’
But as he grew up and attended elite independent school The Hall prepatory school, Cheltenham Junior School and Rugby School, his mother noted he had become a problematic teenager with ‘total disregard for the value of money’.
While studying at Edinburgh University, Mr Stern asked for more money on top of the allowance he received from his wealthy parents.
Mrs Stern told the inquest in Reading: ‘He came home and started to look for a job. He started a job at a company dealing with organic toiletries.
‘He became more and more interested in how the business should be run and tried to persuade his father to buy the company.
‘He seemed less interested in actually working within the company,’ said Mrs Stern in a statement.
After a relatively short period, Mr Stern had stopped working for the toiletries company and ended up working in his father’s business for six years, moving from one department to another without ever seeming to greatly enjoy the work, the inquest heard.
His family was aware Mr Stern was taking recreational drugs including cocaine while doing an MA in business and working at a cafe in London, where he had an apartment in high-end Chelsea.
He then stopped attending classes at the European Business School.
Police investigators had extensively appealed for information which could help them to locate Mr Stern after he disappeared.
Inquiries revealed he had met his sister Emily Stern on January 9 for dinner and the following morning had withdrawn £20,000 from a cashpoint.
Mr Stern had booked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Battersea for a three-night stay but had left to go to Sonning and was seen at the Bull Inn public house on the evening of January 11, where he remained at the bar for just one hour before leaving.
A post mortem examination on Mr Stern’s thoroughly decomposed body concluded the cause of death was ‘unascertained’, the coroner heard.
Identification documents including his passport and European driving licence were found in the inside pocket of Mr Stern’s coat.
He was wearing a hooded top, a coat and three pairs of trousers, the top layer of which was waterproof.
Alan Blake, the assistant coroner for Berkshire, concluded the inquest by saying he was satisfied Mr Stern had intended to end his own life.
Mr Blake said: ‘Alexander Stern was a young man aged 36 years who had a troubled mental health history.
‘While he evidently had a number of gifts and qualities, his adult life did not deliver the success and stability that he evidently craved.’