A church minister took his own life just seven days after being given anti-depressants and being signed off work with stress, an inquest heard.

David Spearing, a pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church was found hanged from a tree in Iffley Fields on June 23.

An inquest at Oxford Coroners’ Court heard how the 48-year-old’s mental state had deteriorated in the months leading up to his death and he had asked to be removed from his preaching post at the Adventist Church in Cowley to take up duties at two quieter parish churches in Swindon and Cheltenham.

His GP, Dr Eleanor Holloway, told the inquest that Mr Spearing went to her surgery with symptoms two months before he died.

Dr Holloway, of the Bartlemas Surgery, in East Oxford, said Mr Spearing complained of feeling panicky at times and wondered whether he “could carry on”.

She said: “He had no specific thoughts of suicide and said his religion would protect him from any actions of self harm.”

On June 16 Mr Spearing returned to the doctor and was prescribed diazepam and signed off work for a fortnight.

A day after taking his first diazepam tablet Mr Spearing attempted to kill himself by overdosing on cocodomal and was found by his wife of 12 years, Lillian, in a river in Iffley Fields before being taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Mrs Spearing, 39, said: “The first time he was paranoid was at the hospital and he thought someone was filming him.

“That weekend he started to be quite paranoid and he was convinced that he was dying and the tablets were still in his stomach and killing him.

“He felt very, very bad about what he had done and he thought he couldn’t face standing up in front of people and preaching.

“He was very afraid his employer would find out. He actually thought he was going to have a slow and painful death.”

Mrs Spearing, of Argyle Street, Cowley said the couple had gone to bed as normal on June 22 but when she woke up the following morning he was not in bed and she feared the worst.

She said: “He promised me the night before he wasn’t going to do anything like that (suicide attempt) again.

“He promised me he would wake me up if he got panicked in the middle of the night.

“I was very worried. He had told me before he was thinking of hanging himself.

“I had a conversation with him and told him how it would shock me, so he promised he wouldn’t do anything like that.”

Mr Spearing’s body was found by police officers in Iffley Fields the next morning.

Pathologist Elizabeth Soilleux said toxicological results showed traces of Diazepam in Mr Spearing’s blood.

Coroner Nicholas Gardener recorded a verdict that Mr Spearing took his own life.