THE director of Modern Art Oxford killed himself in a colleague's garden, his inquest heard today.

Michael Stanley, 37, hanged himself after struggling with "relationship and work issues", Oxfordshire Coroner's Court heard.

The married father-of-three suffered from depression and took his own life in the early hours of Friday September 21 last year, coroner Darren Salter ruled today.

Mr Stanley, described in the proceedings as a workaholic, was discovered in the garden of colleague Verity Slater shortly after midday on the Friday.

His death was reported by neighbours.

In a statement read to the inquest Ms Slater, a gallery arts manager, said she agreed to let Mr Stanley feed her cat and look after her house in Adelaide Street, Jericho, Oxford, while she was on holiday as he needed "a little bit of head space".

Ms Slater said when she gave him her keys he "seemed normal, a little tired but there was nothing unusual about his manner".

She added: "He was a private person.

"He didn't share details about his private life.

"He liked to keep work and his personal life apart."

Rigor mortis had set in by the time police community support officers arrived so they did not attempt to resuscitate him.

PCSO Thomas Baker said: "He was wearing a dinner suit with a black satin stripe down the side."

Mr Stanley's widow, Carrie, whom he had been with for 20 years, said he told her he "needed some space away and moved to Verity's house and I was supportive of this because I wanted him to get better".

She added: "He would come back to put the children to bed at times."

Mrs Stanley, who did not attend the inquest, made a statement after his death saying he had suffered from depression for the last couple of years.

She said it was a "huge decision" for him to get medical advice and see a psychotherapist following a breakdown in March 2011.

In May that year he was urgently referred to a community mental health team.

He was assessed as depressed and suicidal but could keep himself safe by taking anti-depressants and keeping follow-up appointments, it was decided.

Mr Stanley, of Orchard Close, Witney, Oxford, also saw a private counsellor. Giving evidence at the inquest, Catherine Sage, NHS community mental health team manager, said Oxford Health NHS Trust staff him in May and June 2011 when he was in "low mood and distressed because of relationship and work issues".

She said he was "unforthcoming at times and reluctant to explore in greater detail the issues he presented".

He was eventually discharged from the community team after missing some appointments and appearing "ambivalent about engaging and addressing his problems", Ms Sage said.

After returning from a Spanish holiday "it was as if his mind was in a different place," Mr Stanley's widow said.

"He told me he had felt suicidal for three days and it was at this point he started medication," Mrs Stanley said.

The widow added: "I am totally devastated and did not think he would have taken his life."

The couple spoke on the phone the day before he died but the contents were not disclosed to the inquest.

Post-mortem examination tests showed Mr Stanley was about 1.5 times the legal drink driving limit.

His private counsellor Dolores O'Malley, whom he saw weekly, between June and September last year, said she did not believe him to be "imminently suicidal", a view backed up by his GP, Dr Vicky Stansfield.

Addressing Mr Stanley's parents Eric and Janet and his sisters Carla and Alice, the coroner paid tribute to Mr Stanley's work ethic.

He said: "Michael was clearly a hardworking man and did what he could to carry on without it becoming apparent to others or impacting on others."