THE body of a man was left hanging in woods for ten days because police search equipment was not working properly.

Michael Fitz-Hugh, who had a history of depression, was reported missing in Brighton by worried friends and relatives the day after he disappeared.

He had sent them a series of texts and letters and there were fears he was suicidal.

Police started a search and focused on Coldean woods, near where the 44-year-old had been staying, and where he indicated he may have gone.

A police helicopter was sent to help in the search but its infra-red equipment, which could have aided the hunt for a body, was not working.

Instead, Mr Fitz-Hugh’s body was only discovered when a team of surveyors stumbled upon it in a dense part of the wood.

Mr Fitz-Hugh had used a piece of blue nylon rope to make a noose.

He was identified by a match from his fingerprints on the police national computer.

An inquest at Brighton County Court was told Mr Fitz-Hugh, who was born in Dublin, came from a close-knit family.

He was the only boy in a family of seven children and many of his relatives from the Republic of Ireland attended the hearing.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Pollard told the inquest that despite a major search police had been unable to find Mr Fitz-Hugh after he went missing on May 16 because he had chosen a place deep in the woods where his body was hard to discover.

He said: “Tragically, we did not find Michael until May 26. It is a fairly dense woodland area, off the beaten track.

“It is quite difficult and we did our best. The dogs did not pick up a scent.

“He appeared to have chosen a spot where he would not have been found.”

The officer said the investigation concluded that Mr Fitz- Hugh had gone into the wood on the morning he disappeared and taken his life.

But police dogs were unable to find his body and a search involving 35 volunteers also failed to find him.

Police believe he died before he had been reported missing.

DCI Pollard said: “Michael, on the morning of May 16, took himself into those woods with the intention of taking his life.

“From the phone calls and texts it seems he had decided to take his own life.”

The inquest was told Mr Fitz-Hugh had made previous attempts on his life. He had once tried to hang himself from a bridge in Scunthorpe and had received treatment for mental health problems.

But Patrick Byrne, a friend who had let Mr Fitz-Hugh stay at his home in Waldron Avenue, Coldean, said he had not appeared depressed.

Brighton and Hove Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley recorded a verdict that Mr Fitz- Hugh took his own life.

She said: “He was clearly intelligent, funny, caring and inspired intense loyalty and devotion from those who knew him.”