WILTSHIRE coroner David Masters is to contact Wiltshire's Chief Constable about the hour's delay in breaking into the Devizes home of a man who had threatened to commit suicide.

Mr Masters was told at an inquest in Devizes on Friday that an officer had stood on the doorstep of Mark Nicholas's home in Eastleigh Road for 35 minutes, waiting for a police team to come and break the door down, when he only needed to turn the handle and walk in.

Police had been alerted at 1.33am on 16 June by a friend of 42-year-old Mr Nicholas. He had received a text message indicating that Mr Nicholas was about to take his own life.

Mr Nicholas had sought to take his own life on previous occasions but it was 1.46am before dog handler PC Philip Thom was despatched to the address. He was the only officer available in the area.

PC Thom told the inquest he had arrived at the flat at 2.10am, having stopped off at Devizes police station to pick up a copy of the log on Mr Nicholas, but received no reply when he rang the doorbell and hammered on the door. He also tried phoning Mr Nicholas's mobile phone and landline without success.

It was only when a police unit turned up at 2.45am that it was discovered the front door was unlocked and PC Thom could have walked in unhindered.

He said: "I called for the unit without checking whether the door was unlocked and I should have."

He agreed with Mr Masters that he had the power to gain access if he felt there was a danger to life and he knew from the content of the text message there was the prospect of a man taking his own life.

He told Mr Masters his inspector had not asked him if he had tried the door handle nor suggested that he should urgently gain entry.

He said the message had been given a low category priority because the information had come from a third party and not from Mr Nicholas himself.

When police entered the flat, they found Mr Nicholas's body hanging from a joist in the attic. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police found bottles of alcohol and medication in the flat and numerous notes from Mr Nicholas to various people, including the coroner.

The last handwritten note was timed at 1.40am, seven minutes after the police had first been alerted.

Among the notes was one to a man who had allegedly assaulted Mr Nicholas on June 5 saying he didn't blame him for what had happened.

Mr Masters referred to a statement from Mr Nicholas's estranged wife Joanne, who had met her husband, 11 years before when she did accounts for his landscape gardening business.

The couple were married in October 1998 but they went through difficult times, mainly as a result of Mr Nicholas's drinking and they separated.

Mr Nicholas's brother Keith expressed concern over the length of time it took PC Thom to arrive at Eastleigh Road and asked if it was really necessary to have stopped off to pick up the information when it could have been relayed to him.

Mr Masters, bringing in a verdict that Mr Nicholas killed himself, said he was concerned at the time lost in attending the scene and would refer this to the Chief Constable.