The former boyfriend of reality TV star Jessica Cunningham killed himself in mysterious circumstances after a night of drinking vodka and snorting cocaine, an inquest heard today.
Former businessman Alistair Eccles, 35, was found hanged at a friend’s flat the day he was due to see his three daughters from his relationship with Cunningham.
The couple had run fashion business Famous Frocks together but split up in 2014, when he was convicted of money laundering and given a 15-month suspended prison sentence.
Alistair Eccles, 35, was found hanged at a friend’s flat the day he was due to see his three daughters from his relationship with Apprentice star Jessica Cunningham
Jessica Cunningham and Alistair Eccles had run fashion business Famous Frocks together but split up in 2014, when he was convicted of money laundering and given a 15-month suspended prison sentence
The hearing was told he had a history of anxiety and depression.
Mr Eccles, from Colne, Lancashire was pronounced dead in hospital with tests showing he had taken cocaine and alcohol shortly before his death. The reason why he took his own life is unknown.
At the brief inquest hearing in Preston, a statement was provided by 30-year-old Miss Cunningham which read: ‘We had three children together but we had difficulties and separated in September 2014.
The tragedy occurred on August 11 2017 after Mr Eccles had spent the previous afternoon and evening with friend Sarfraz Ahmed (Alistair Eccles pictured here with actor Jody Latham)
Jessica Cunningham said in a tribute to Mr Eccles on Instagram: ‘The past three weeks have been incredibly upsetting, challenging and full of sadness’ (pictured on The Apprentice)
‘When we separated I lived in another part of the country and he still saw the children and we were in contact with each other very regularly.
‘We texted a lot and he saw the children every other weekend and he seemed to have a good life and it seemed to be on track. There were normal text messages and they flowed regularly about the children. I was contacted by his family to say that he had passed away.’
The tragedy occurred on August 11 2017 after Mr Eccles had spent the previous afternoon and evening with friend Sarfraz Ahmed. In a statement Mr Ahmed said: ‘I have known Alistair since we were 18 years old and we have been friends all that time.
‘We would go out regularly and August 10 he asked if I fancied going for a few drinks with him and I said I would. We went into Burnley around 3.30pm and left around 8pm.
Mr Eccles had once been part of a gang of fraudsters who were jailed for 24 years in 2001 following a publishing scam that saw victims all over Britain scammed out of £740,000
‘I live on a flat above the shop floor and we went back there together. We had some beers and it wasn’t unusual to go back there for a drink. We carried on drinking lager and vodka until about 10.30 and then I went to bed but he was on the sofa and carried on drinking.
‘The shop shutters were shut on the shop downstairs. He asked to stay over as he was picking up his children the next day and his car was in Burnley.
‘Throughout the evening he was on his phone but there was no indication that there was a problem. He wasn’t the sort of person to talk if there was a problem.
Apprentice star Jessica Cunningham had three daughters with Mr Eccles
‘I woke up at 1am to see that he wasn’t on the sofa and I shouted for him but there was no answer.’
Det Insp Mark Dickinson of Lancashire Police said he attended the scene but added there were no third party involvement in Mr Eccles’ death. He left no note and Mr Dickinson said nothing of any ‘relevance’ was found on any text messages.
Pathologist Dr Muammer Al-Mudhaffer confirmed the cause of Mr Eccles’ death was hanging and he said toxicology reports showed ‘evidence of cocaine being used shortly before death and evidence of alcohol use.’
Det Insp Mark Dickinson of Lancashire Police said he attended the scene but added there were no third party involvement in Mr Eccles’ death
Recording a conclusion of suicide, Coroner Richard Taylor said: ‘Mr Eccles had a background history of anxiety and depression but he hasn’t seen the GP since September 2014.
‘He had spent the day with a friend, Sarfraz Ahmed, who had a drink with Mr Eccles and he asked to say at his home as he was seeing his daughters the next day and his home was closer.
‘Mr Ahmed went to bed and Mr Eccles went to sleep in the sofa in the same room. He remembered Mr Eccles texting, he fell asleep and woke up at 1am.
‘He performed CPR and called the paramedics. He was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He gave no indication as to his intentions to any witnesses – although his actions were very deliberate it would seem to me.’
Mr Eccles had once been part of a gang of fraudsters who were jailed for 24 years in 2001 following a publishing scam that saw victims all over Britain scammed out of £740,000.
Ms Cunningham is expecting another child with boyfriend Alex Daw
In a statement, Apprentice star Jessica Cunningham said: ‘We texted a lot and he saw the children every other weekend and he seemed to have a good life and it seemed to be on track’
The gang sold bogus adverts to unsuspecting businesses, and when victims failed to pay up members of the gang posed as bailiffs to attend their homes and businesses. Mr Eccles was asked to look after dirty money belonging to the gang.
The revelations emerged when Cunningham was appearing on series 12 of The Apprentice – making it to the penultimate week of the show before bring knocked out at the interview stage.
She founded a new online fashion firm, ProdigalFox, with her sister Emma Deeks and is also the Operations Director for a PR and marketing agency.
At the time of Mr Eccles’ death she shared an tribute to him on Instagram saying: ‘The past three weeks have been incredibly upsetting, challenging and full of sadness.
‘I want to thank the special souls that have brought light where there was darkness, helped my children to smile when there were only tears and helped them believe there is life after death.
‘The strength and support from those closest to myself and my children has given me faith that they will lead as happy as can be and normal lives and that the hard choices I’ve had to make have been the right decisions.
‘I feel truly saddened about what has happened as there was so much to live for.’