A “delusional” man with mental health issues had taken cannabis before killing a children’s author in a quiet village before dying himself in a 145mph motorcycle crash, an inquest has heard.
Alex Sartain used a home-made double-barrelled shotgun to shoot his neighbour James Nash in the front garden of his home in Upper Enham, near Andover, Hampshire, on August 5 2020.
The 34-year-old then repeatedly stamped on the head of the 42-year-old parish councillor, causing him fatal head injuries from which he died three days later.
Mr Sartain died later that day when he crashed his motorcycle while being pursued by police at speeds described as “terrifying” and recorded at up to 161mph.
Mr Nash’s inquest was told that Mr Sartain had become convinced that his neighbour “had something to do with Putin and the spread of Covid”.
Mr Sartain believed Mr Nash, who had previously worked as a graphic designer for aerospace business Airbus, had been working in a conspiracy with Boeing and Nasa, the hearing was told.
Mr Sartain’s father, John Sartain, told his son’s inquest: “Before all the problems, he was a normal happy lad. Drugs and lots of other things changed him until the end, we had the mental issues.”
The inquest was told that Mr Sartain’s mental health problems deteriorated and he was sectioned in September 2019 before he was discharged in April 2020.
His father said: “Alex had it in his head that he had been taken to the mental health place and tortured and everyone was out to get him.”
Mr Sartain added that he had attempted to contact mental health services in June 2020 but his son had then shown signs of improvement.
He said: “I didn’t think anything like that would happen.”
Mr Sartain’s brother, Scott, told the hearing that his brother started to “hang around with the wrong crowd” at the age of 16 after their parents separated and he went on to get involved with drugs, including crack cocaine.
Mr Sartain said the death of their mother and of a close friend of his brother had a “profound impact” on him.
He added: “Over the past few years, Alex Sartain’s mental health really started to deteriorate and he would often stay in his room talking to himself, talking of people from space and government agencies spying on him.”
The inquest heard that Mr Sartain rode off from the village at speed and was pursued by police, including a police helicopter.
Travelling at 145mph, he died “instantly” after he clipped an oncoming Fiat 500 car on the A343 near Hurstbourne Tarrant and crashed into a tree.
He had taken off his motorcycle leathers which were found at the side of the road along with knuckle dusters, the shotgun and a device used for disabling horses.
A post-mortem examination found that Mr Sartain died of multiple catastrophic injuries and he was found to have cannabis in his system as well as alcohol in his blood at the level of 0.4 of the drink-drive limit.
Recording a conclusion that Mr Sartain died as a result of a road traffic collision, the coroner Jason Pegg said: “After what had happened to James Nash that afternoon, it cannot be known what was going through Alex Sartain’s mind as to how his day would come to an end.
“This was an accident, I am not satisfied that the collision was a deliberate act.”