Daily Mail (UK)
January 12, 1999
The strictures of a bizarre religious sect drove a man to his death 15 years ago. Monica Porter recalls the case of David Beech, undone by a packet of cigarettes.
THE inquest into the death of a member of the ultra-strict religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren, ruled that he committed suicide because of the 'guilty secret' he harboured.
David Beech, 48, had been furtively smoking for 20 years, despite the habit being banned by the Brethren's rules.
When his wife found a packet of cigarettes in the airing cupboard at home, she reported him to the cult's leaders.
As punishment, the couple and their three children were temporarily banned from the sect's close-knit social life. Friendship with 'outsiders' was forbidden by the Brethren, and the Beeches' exile led to the breakdown of their marriage.
Beech left his home in Cheadle, near Manchester, to stay with two former sect members, David Shorto and his wife Eunice. But after a year of mounting depression, he killed himself by putting his head on a railway line.
Mrs. Shorto told the inquest at Stockport how he read and reread a text on the evils of smoking by formere Brethren leader Jim Taylor. It said smoking 'brings in what smoke is -- darkness and blackness. It is filthy and against the spirit of God'.
"The poor man was driven to desperation,' she concluded.
The Shortos said Beech had once been a 'witty, lively man who liked performing George Formby songs to entertain his friends'.
Beech's wife Diana denied that it was pressure from the sect which led to his suicide. 'He simply felt that he hae been deceitful and could not continue.'
The Brethren is still making pronouncements against our various 'sins'. In recent years, the 10,000-strong cult branded computer technology 'the work of the Devil' and banned members' children from using computers at school lest they be corrupted by their 'satanic influence'.
This is a subject of which we have personal knowledge. Not long after we left the EB in the early 1980s we had a phone call from David Beech, a brother formerly local with us in Manchester, UK. He had been withdrawn from for telling lies. He had smoked an occasional illicit cigarette, his wife found a half-used packet in a cupboard and I believe he had denied it was his, so he had to leave.
He came to live with us and was tolerably happy on and off, but pined for his wife and three children. When he contacted the priests to say he was truly sorry and to express full repentance they replied that they hadn't in mind to review his case at present. This went on for months and Dave became more and more depressed; they had been such a happy and united family, very musical and full of fun.
Eventually he tried to end his own life by taking an overdose of medication. This attempt had a mildly amusing ending as my wife Eunicé went to wake him up, having missed him. He peered groggily at her and didn't seem to know who she was. Later he confided that he thought he had died and that she was an angel, so Eunicé commiserated with him that he must have been terribly disappointed that it was only her after all!
Dave was taken to hospital and recovered for a while but was held in the p**ch**tric ward (**s inserted to get around the problem of having this reply accepted, the site apparently doesn't like the P word) which he found very humiliating. Finally, late one night he drove to the railway line behind his old home in Gatley where he and his wife had raised their children and laid his head on the rail. The note he left in his car directed the police to us and I had to identify his battered body.
This was clearly a case of cruelty by the Manchester EBs at this time. He had committed no great crime, was sorry for his deception and should have been allowed to rejoin his family. They showed little remorse though and behaved in an unfeeling way at his burial. Dave Beech is yet another person who suffered so badly from EB practises that he committed suicide.
Death Certificate of David Etchello Beech
Date and place of death: December 1st, 1983, Railway line, Gatley
Cause of death: Traumatic decapitation - Suicide.
Brother David’s secret sin
By Andrew Russell
A Member of a strict religious sect could not live with the shame he brought on his family and himself.
David Beech, 47, died with his head on a railway line after leaving his wife and three children in the care of the Exclusive Brethren community.
The sin that drove him to suicide was . . . smoking cigarettes, an inquest heard yesterday at Stockport, Greater Manchester.
Smoking is strictly against the rules of the Brethren and in the nights before his death, Mr Beech constantly reread a passage from one of their books. It said: ‘Smoking brings in what smoke is, darkness and blackness; it is filthy. It affects the breath; it is against the spirit of God.’
Mr Beech had been a secret smoker for 20 years when his wife, Diana, found a packet of cigarettes in the airing cupboard of her home in Marrick Close, Cheadle.
She reported him to the Brethren’s leaders, who decided that the family should be barred from the cult’s closeknit social life and daily meetings for two weeks.
The pain of being apart from the religious community which forbids any friendships with ‘outsiders’ led Mr Beech to leave his family so they could return to the only friends they knew.
While his 45-year –old wife and their children, Simon, Bobby, and Gilly, were welcomed back, he went to stay with a friend and former member of the brethren, Mr David Shorto, at his home in Abingdon Road, Bramhall.
Mr Shorto’s wife Eunice, also anexile from they Brethren, said Mr Beech spent ‘night after night’ reading the passage about smoking. ‘He said how wicked he was and how he wished he had never smoked. The poor Man was driven to desperation.’
Members of the Exclusive Brethren crowded the courtroom yesterday as Mrs Beech told coroner Mr peter Revington how her husband became ‘deceitful’ in July 1982. ‘One of the things he did was smoke secretly.
‘He left the sect entirely of his own accord, without pressure from me or anyone. He said he wanted to be with God.’
Mrs Beech, who did not take the oath but affirmed her evidence, said her husband wrote to her from hospital after taking an overdose of tablets, but she did not go to see him.
‘Some members of our meeting told me they would go. They were supervisors who thought they could help him.’
The jury returned a suicide verdict after Mr Revington told them: ‘It is not your duty to examine other people’s beliefs. Our country allows people to practise their religion as they think best.
After the hearing, Mr Shorto said: ‘When you are in the Brethren, you have no other friends so being banned from meetings is like being under house arrest.