Former monk Dominic Bell hanged himself in a Catholic church after believing he was possessed by demons
Former monk Dominic Bell hanged himself in a Catholic church after believing he was possessed by demons Reuters

An ex-monk hanged himself in a West Sussex Catholic church after believing he was evil and possessed by demons.

Brother Dominic Bell was found dead at St John the Evangelist Church in Horsham. He had told psychiatrists it was necessary to injure himself to save the people he loved.

The 47-year-old's body was found by a regular churchgoer who had entered St John's to pray, according to a Daily Mail report.

An inquest on Monday was informed that Brother Bell was a monk and head gardener at Quarr Abbey, an Isle of Wight monastery, before returning to live at his family home in Horsham.

His mother told the inquest that her son had suffered from depression after financial difficulties which ended up with him being declared bankrupt. Bell then turned to religion, becoming a monk and tending Quarr Abbey's grounds for over ten years.

But he became disenchanted with the religious life of a monk and moved to the Orkney Islands. However, he again fell into depression and returned to live with his mother.

It was here he had a first suicide attempt, stabbing himself in the chest and telling his mother: "You need to let me go."

Bell was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in September 2013 and detained at Langley Green Hospital in Crawley. While on day leave on the morning of 2 January he was found dead at the church, found by parishioner Andrew Penson who described entering the church and seeing the body of a man hanging.

Psychiatrist Dr Mihaela Bucur told the hearing: "He didn't have any insight into what was going on in his life. He thought everything was real and that he was possessed by demons.

"He said that he wanted to protect people around him by hurting himself. He thought that he had to hurt himself because at that point he thought he was evil and he was doing bad things to people around him."

A jury concluded that Bell died of self-inflicted injuries but whether he intended to commit suicide was uncertain.

Demonic possession is not recognised as a psychiatric or medical diagnosis by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In cases of dissociative identity disorder, one study revealed that 29% of respondents identified themselves as demons, But psychiatrists believe this is a mental disease called demonomania or demonopathy.