A POLICE sergeant killed himself after taking months off work with depression, an inquest heard.

Sergeant Craig Illingworth, 45, who had served for 27 years across East Lancashire, was found hanged by his wife Christine at their home in Gisburn Road, Blacko, in February.

She told a hearing at Burnley Coroner's Court that her husband's suicide came after around six months of sick leave.

He had been involved in a pay dispute with bosses and had also become disillusioned working as a custody officer in Rawtenstall.

His GP had given him medication for depression but he wasn't taking it.

However, by January, the doctor suggested he may soon be well enough to return to his job - but just a month later he had taken his life.

Mrs Illingworth, his wife of 15 years, said: "Craig always wanted to go back to work and he wanted to complete his 30 years.

"I personally did not feel that he was ready to go back to work.

"He did his best to hide it from me, being like he was, but he still was not feeling well.

"He was having nightmares quite frequently and things like that."

At other times Mr Illingworth was angry, she added.

"The thing that was causing him the most distress at that time was something that had happened in regard to how he was being treated at work and his financial situation and his police pay," she said.

"The outcome of it caused him some distress."

Mrs Illingworth added: "He just felt that he was not getting the support he needed and he found it quite unforgivable after lots of long and dedicated service in the police."

She said her husband had hinted at suicide months before his death but not in the immediate days or weeks before he was found hanged.

She said he had seemed normal on the day he died before she left for work.

However, a friend, Cesari Viola, said in a statement that Mr Illingworth had been "slightly different" when playing bowls before he returned home to take his own life.

East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor said Mr Illingworth was clearly a "proud" man and added: "I would suspect that the onset of his depressing illness came as something of a surprise to him."

Returning a verdict of suicide, Mr Taylor said: "He clearly took his own life but he did it when he was very depressed and when he was distressed about where his work life was going."

After the inquest, Supt Sarah Oldham, of Pennine police, said: "Sgt Illingworth was a well respected and hard working officer working within a difficult and demanding role.

"He committed himself greatly to the job and showed professionalism and dedication throughout his service."

Blackburn Rovers fan Sgt Illingworth was born in Haslingden and was first stationed in Accrington before moving to Burnley, where he spent the majority of his career.

He received two commendations for good police work and two for bravery.

The bravery commendations were for disarming a man in Burnley town centre and for talking a man who was threatening to jump down from the roof of a building.