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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Unilever scientist jumps to death following redundancy


A top food scientist jumped to his death from the roof of his laboratory only hours after being made redundant, an inquest has heard.

Dr Clive Blackburn, who had worked for Unilever for 15 years developing ready-to-consume drinks for big brands such as Slimfast and Lipton Tea, was told that he was at risk of losing his job last May, but began suffering from depression as a result.
His colleagues reported to the hearing that he started behaving strangely at work after that point. Blackburn also confided to his GP, Dr Jonathan Wali, that he had no hope for the future, despite being considered for second interviews for potential new jobs.
Although he was turning up for work, he told his doctor he felt that he was “going through the motions” and was dreading being out of work, according to the Daily Mail.
Following what appeared to be meticulous planning after losing his job on Friday 11 November, however, Blackburn returned to Unilever’s development labs the next day, telling security guards that he intended to collect his personal belongings.
He then took his own life. Coroner David Morris told the inquest: “He was made redundant, with his last working day on November 11. It appears he gained access to the building at around 4pm on November 12, having asked security for his swipe card to collect his belongings.”
Security staff became concerned when they could not locate him after several hours and so they called the police. “His body was eventually found lying on grass on the grounds of the site. The cause of his death was recorded as multiple bone and soft tissue injuries, consistent with a fall from height,” Morris added.
The coroner proceeded to describe Blackburn as a “highly intelligent and highly qualified scientist, who struggled with anxiety. With the impending redundancy, he developed severe depression.”
This meant that Morris had no alternative but to record a verdict that Blackburn “took his own life, whilst suffering from acute depression”.
In a macabre twist, however, Blackburn appears to have updated his own profile on professional social networking site, LinkedIn, shortly before he died, to read ‘1963-2011’. He also stated that his employment with Unilever ended in November 2011, after having been a group leader in the drinks design department for three years and three months.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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