A circus performer plagued by voices telling him to kill himself set fire to himself at Glastonbury Festival, an inquest heard today.
Ashton Launcherley, 27, travelled across the world training in circus schools as a juggler, teaching workshops to children and performing at festivals.
He was close to his mother and father, and was attending the festival with his family when he died, a coroner’s court was told.
In a written statement, his mother Alison Hull said her son had seemed happy and healthy until a trip to India in 2012.
“When he came back he seemed quite spaced out, a little bit lost,” she said.
The inquest heard he continued to travel and study at circus schools across Europe, travelling to Bordeaux in January 2014, reported Somerset Live .
At this point, he confided to his mother at his home in Barley Close, Wells, that he had started to hear ‘nasty’ voices.
Senior Somerset Coroner Tony Williams was told mental health teams became involved and he spent three weeks in a French mental health facility.
He was discharged with medication, but when he returned to England he stopped taking it.
Ashton went to Belgium but returned home, saying he was hearing voices ‘all the time’ and was sectioned under the mental health act in June 2015.
The inquest heard Ashton was offered a number of treatments, but felt there was nothing wrong with him – despite believing his ex-girlfriend was communicating with him telepathically.
He agreed to take anti-psychotic medication for a period of six months, before coming off it once again and refusing help from mental health teams.
Medical records submitted as evidence showed Ashton had been diagnosed with a schizo-affective disorder and at times had spoken to doctors in ‘rambling’ tones and ‘strange accents’.
It was further heard that he spoke ‘fondly’ of some of the voices and believed that the doctors and nurses were all telepathically connected.
Both Ashton and his family were ‘dismissive’ of the care he was getting from mental health teams, the hearing was told.
With Ashton not wanting to engage with them, and his parents telling them they were distressing their son, treatment was discontinued on the proviso that they would contact him should his health start to deteriorate.
In her statement, his mother said: “He was still hearing voices in his head. He thought people were taking the mickey out of him.
“He could hear them threatening his friends, and he thought he had to save them.”
The inquest was told Ashton split his accommodation between his father’s house in Bristol and his mother’s home in Wells.
When he still refused to take conventional medication, his mother gave him multi-vitamins and food supplements, as well as St John’s Wort to try and calm him down.
In records submitted to the inquest, he is reported to have told his mother “I have to kill myself because of the voices. I’m fed up of hearing them,” and agreed to try Reiki healing and counselling.
“I told him the voices would get worse after he died,” the statement from his mother added, “That he would have to follow his family around and would not be able to say sorry.”
In response, Ashton is said to have replied: “We are all dead. They are killing my family. They are killing all of us.”
In the weeks prior to his death, the coroner heard that Ashton had travelled to Berlin, Bordeaux and Morocco, losing touch with his family who tracked him via his bank accounts.
When he returned to England, he agreed to take medication, but was left feeling ‘zonked out’ by it and stopped taking it once again.
The inquest heard that in May 2016, he bought a bottle of bleach, telling his mother he intended to drink it, and told his family he wasn’t allowed to eat.
The family arrived at the Glastonbury Festival site on June 17 last year, and on June 19, the inquest heard he told his mother the voices had been ‘commanding’ him to kill himself.
He got up, going into the Green Field area of the festival for a sauna to try and relax.
His father, Peter Smith, had been working on the festival site and said he was aware of a ‘commotion’ and people shouting ‘fire.’
“I could see the police were there. The commotion went on for a long time,” he told the inquest in a written statement, “I heard there’d been some sort of accident with petrol.”
As he approached the scene, he saw a black Puffa jacket and camouflage trousers like the ones Ashton had been wearing.
“I didn’t want to believe it was him,” he told the coroner. “I didn’t want to believe it was Ashton. His face and his body was black.”
Further written evidence was provided by a number of other witnesses.
Edward Kopak, who was also on the festival site, said Ashton had approached him asking to borrow a can of petrol, telling him that his friend’s car had broken down on the railway line.
Another festival worker, Jorge Garcia, said he had been carving wood at the site when he heard someone shout ‘fire’.
His statement said: “I ran to get a bucket of water, others were doing the same. I was shocked – what I thought was a bundle of wood was a man, he was sat in the lotus position with his back to me.”
Others at the site tried desperately to help Ashton, putting out the flames and forcing his mouth open so he could breathe.
Sally Hennery, a trained nurse, had rushed to the scene and described her horror as Ashton became agitated, trying to stand up, despite the severity of his injuries.
Ashton suffered 95 per cent burns, and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham.
He suffered multiple-organ failure and died a short time afterwards.
Recording a conclusion of suicide and the cause of death as burns and multiple organ failure, Senior Somerset Coroner Tony Williams, sitting at Taunton, said he was satisfied ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that Ashton had intended to end his own life.
Anyone who feels they need emotional support can speak to the Samaritans by calling 116 123 or visit them online .