The family have paid tribute to a devoted dad and grandad who took his own life after wrongly believing he had prostate cancer.
Dad-of-three and grandad-of-one Paul Cuniff, who had a history of depression, went missing from his Hartlepool home on June 26 after sending text messages and phone calls to his family.
The 43-year-old former care worker’s body was found by his son Liam in woodland at Crimdon Dene the following day.
Senior Coroner for Teesside Clare Bailey recorded a conclusion of suicide at an inquest at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
Now his brother Mark, 34, and Mark’s partner Nicola, 31, have spoken of their grief as his loss has left a hole in their lives.
“He is missed by everyone and especially by his family,” said Nicola.
He is missed by everyone and especially by his family. People thought a lot of him. He was always kind and he always tried to help people.Nicola Cuniff
“People thought a lot of him. He was always kind and he always tried to help people.
“No matter what the circumstances, he always thought he could help. He did not like to see people being bullied or ripped off or anything like that.”
Paul had visited the doctor after finding traces of blood in his urine.
The inquest heard Paul had told his mother he believed he had prostate cancer, but the inquest heard a post mortem exam had found no trace of the disease.
As well as 24-year-old Liam, Paul is survived by daughter Savannah, 21, Jake, 18, and Savannah’s son Lincoln.
“He is a big miss - he was always called Mark ‘Our Kid’ and he always stood up for the family,” said Nicola.
“He was always there for his kids - that’s why it was so hard that Liam is the one who found him - and he loved his grandson to bits. They were always going on adventures together and making cakes.”
Mark had had an idea of where his brother had gone and the police helicopter had flown over the area, and Paul had not been visible.
Liam had gone to search the woods again the next morning without waiting for his uncle.
“Mark said ‘I will go with you, just make sure you come for me,’ but Liam went to look on his own and that’s when he found his dad,” said Nicola.
The family has had an apology from the North East Ambulance Service after Mark was left with his brother’s body because a paramedic initially refused to allow him to be put into her ambulance until she had confirmed with management that it was okay.
“The fire service tried to put him in the ambulance but she was not letting them,” said Nicola.
“She told them to keep him at the side of the ambulance until she got in contact - she should have put him in the ambulance straightaway.”
A spokesperson for North East Ambulance Service said: “Following a complaint about this case we acknowledge that there was some confusion around procedures when dealing with such an incident.
“As a result we have provided feedback and training for the member of staff involved and apologise unreservedly for the distress this caused to all involved.”