Father of accountant killed in City fall: online gambling drove my son to suicide
A young accountant who plunged to his death from an office building “died of shame” as his life was torn apart by an online gambling addiction, his father said.
Joshua Jones, 23, jumped from a ninth floor balcony after his debts mounted and saw no way of keeping up with the crippling loans he had taken out to feed his habit, an inquest heard.
The graduate had won a job with PwC, one of the world’s most prestigious accountancy firms, but had a “double life” and was addicted to online betting, his father Martin told Southwark Coroners’ Court.
After the inquest he called for a shake-up of the online gambling industry so that addicts could be permanently banned from placing bets.
The online betting industry in the UK is now worth £3.5 billion a year but campaigners say there has been a surge in problem gamblers, especially young people.
The National Gambling Helpline, which fields calls from people with gambling issues, reported that 46 per cent of callers in 2014/15 were concerned with online gambling.
Joshua, who had been living in Clapham, died from multiple injuries after jumping off the PWC building in the MoreLondon riverside complex on July 30 last year.
The harrowing incident was captured on the building’s external CCTV cameras.
Mr Jones, 63, a retired civil engineer, said in a statement read to the court: “Josh was good looking and intelligent and had a good job but he was addicted to gambling.
He died of shame. He took his life because of gambling. We miss him terribly.”
Mr Jones explained how his son was a high achiever who was a talented hockey player and musician who won a place at Surrey University.
But he blew his student loan on gambling and his parents took control of his money giving him “a drip feed” of cash to live off.
His father said: “Josh started taking out pay day loans at silly interest rates.”
He said Joshua “loved” his job at PwC where he was passing his accountancy exams and had made a lot of friends
But his gambling was spiralling out of control and his life was unravelling, the inquest heard.
Despite his parents trying to control his money, he continued borrowing from friends and banks to feed his habit.
He was seeking professional help, including seeing a hypnotist, but after one session went straight out to bet.
Joshua confessed to his parents that once he had been lying on his bed shaking and trying to resist the urge to place a bet using the telephone next to him.
In another admission, he said: “PokerStars is my favourite (betting site). It is by far the biggest and slickest. I love it,“ the inquest heard.
Joshua had given his family no indication that he had been suicidal, the inquest heard.
When being treated for his betting, he told health professionals his attitude was: “If I am in this deep, what does another pound matter?”
In the final weeks of his life he owed up to £30,000 to banks, loan companies, family and friends.
He was even planning to sell his beloved trombone which he had possessed since childhood to raise funds, the inquest heard.
His father said: “He begged us not tell PwC about his gambling.
“He led a double life. With his hockey and music friends he was the life and soul of the party. We and some close friends knew the truth.”
He said his son “would not admit defeat” in his London life and return to the family home in Swindon to get his life back on track.
After the inquest, Mr Jones said: “This is such a waste of a young life with a promising future in front of him.
“There are some practical measures which could be adopted to reduce the possibility of another tragedy for another famil – betting firms and gambling web sites could introduce the option for permanent exclusion from their sites, instead of time limited exclusions which eventually permit continued gambling again.
“The betting and gambling industry could introduce effective cooperation to permit self exclusion from one site to be applied to all sites.
“Pay day lenders could adopt equivalent provisions for self exclusion, instead of merely waiting for a borrower to run up a debt and default. “How many more deaths are needed before gambling addiction is taken more seriously?”
Deputy Coroner Shanta Deonarine reached a verdict of suicide. She said that there were no drugs in Joshua’s system or any significant traces of alcohol.
She told the court: “Joshua Jones suffered from a gambling addiction, he had a number of financial problems. I am sure that he took his own life.”
His employer PwC said: “Josh was a wonderful young man. Those colleagues who were fortunate enough to work alongside him feel a great loss. Our thoughts remain with his family and friends.”
A spokesperson for GamCare said: “For many people gambling is not a harmful activity, but for some we know it can become a serious problem.
“We believe it’s important for people to properly understand the risks associated with gambling, and for them to be able to access timely advice and support to prevent a problem developing.”
Brian Wright, director of business as the Remote Gambling Association, a trade body which represents PokerStars and other online gambling sites said: “We want people to bet safely and enjoyably.
“Sites like PokerStars have a number of tools so people can limit the amount they bet or the time they bet and self exclusion. We are always trying to improve and we work with people like GamCare to help people bet responsibly.”
Dunne, J. (2016) ‘Online gambling drove my son to suicide’. Available at: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/father-of-accountant-killed-in-city-fall-online-gambling-drove-my-son-to-suicide-a3234771.html (Accessed: 28 June 2016).
“Joshua Jones tragic suicide is yet another example of what can happen if an addiction to gambling if left unchecked. One of the dangers is the way in which a gambling habit can develop in secret. Unlike drugs and alcohol, the physical symptoms are harder to spot. I kept my own habit hidden from my wife for over two years. On the outside it seems Joshua was trying to lead an ordinary life as a trainee accountant. He had everything to live for. One suicide is one too many and yet, every year people are taking their lives due to gambling addiction, leaving their families to grieve.