Father of Sheffield teacher Jack Ritchie tells inquest gambling addiction 'destroyed' his son

Jack Ritchie's parents believe failures of the UK authorities contributed to his death. Credit: Family Photo

The father of a young teacher from Sheffield who took his own life has told an inquest into his death that a gambling addiction "destroyed" his son.

Jack Ritchie died in Vietnam in 2017 at the age of 24 after battling an addiction dating back to his teens.

Mr Ritchie's parents, Liz and Charles Ritchie believe that failures on the part of UK authorities to address gambling issues contributed to their son's death.

Earlier this week Sheffield coroner David Urpeth heard that Mr Ritchie began gambling on fixed-odds betting terminals when he was about 16 or 17-years-old.

The inquest heard on Friday that Mr and Mrs Ritchie "regard gambling as the root cause and trigger of Jack's death".

Charles Ritchie told the hearing: "It took this happy, healthy 16-year-old and gradually, over the course of seven years, it destroyed a part of him.

"The very essence of that amazing young man was torn apart.

"He was destroyed by gambling so that he could see himself as being the villain, as being the bad person, as being the weak person, as being the irresponsible person, and he took that on because he was a nice guy."

Mr Ritchie was working as an English teacher when he killed himself in Hanoi on 22 November 2017.

His father said that before he left for Vietnam, he "was very positive" and "starting to find his way into adult life".

He told the inquest: "He probably thought he had escaped gambling, was free of it and going to lead the amazing life that was ahead of him."

Charles Ritchie said the addiction "killed him" over the "final four days of his life".

He said his son had "crashed out" after coming to the end of his overdraft.

Jack Ritchie took his own life at the age of 24. Credit: Family Photo

Mrs Ritchie said the couple's son "blamed himself for harming us".

She told the inquest: "He had been told by the lack of information that gambling is normal, that it's only a tiny proportion of people who are addicted and there's something wrong with them, that it was all his fault for not only doing the gambling but harming us because of it."

Mrs Ritchie added: "As a mum I want to say, it wasn't him."

Mr Ritchie's parents believe the hearing is the first so-called Article 2 inquest in a case relating to suicide following gambling.

This means its scope will include an examination of whether any arm of the state breached its duty to protect Mr Ritchie's right to life.

The couple believe an undiagnosed gambling disorder lay behind their son's death and have argued there were no public health warnings about the risk to life posed by gambling products, and that their son was not diagnosed or offered treatment that linked his symptoms to a gambling disorder.

The inquest heard measures the couple have been campaigning for include steps to make some products safer, such as reducing the speed of games, health messaging on the risk of suicide, and education in schools on the "dangers of predatory marketing".