FAILING health and splitting up with his partner led to a well-known tractor expert taking his own life by shooting himself, an inquest heard.

The body of Graham Hayward was found next to a single barrel shotgun by his 21-year-old son, Tom, in the garden of their Fawley cottage. He had shot himself in the head.

In a suicide letter left for police that was read out to Southampton Coroner’s Court, Mr Hayward said that due to the break-up of his relationship and his failing health he had chosen to end his life on March 8.

The 52-year-old licensed shotgun holder had also left suicide letters for his former partner of some ten years Gwendoline Korke and son Tom.

PC James Foster told the inquest that Mr Hayward junior had become concerned about his father’s whereabouts after receiving a phone call from a friend saying that he had not turned up to collect some people in a minibus.

He then discovered the suicide letters and found his father’s body in the backyard of the family home in Spratts Down.

The inquest was told how Mr Hayward and Ms Korke had separated a month before his death and that he had taken the split “really badly.”

Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman said Ms Korke had continued to visit Mr Hayward, as she was “very worried” about him.

The inquest was told that Mr Hayward had angina, diabetes and had started treatment for depression.

Mr Wiseman recorded a verdict that Mr Hayward deliberately took his own life.

He paid tribute to Mr Hayward’s “significant involvement” in tractors and local history. Mr Hayward was a committee member of the New Forest Vintage Tractor and Engine Club and wrote articles for a national newsletter.

He also gave tractor and trailer rides at charity events at Exbury Gardens, Longdown Activity Farm and Honeypot House which provides holidays for vulnerable children and young carers.

Mr Hayward, who worked on farms in the area and helped to maintain churchyards, also staged woodworking displays in the New Forest.

His death is the second tragedy to have hit the family in nine years. His brother Neville, 36, also of Spratts Down, died in 2001 when he was stung by a wasp. He went into anaphylactic shock and suffered a fatal reaction ten months later.