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Educator stressed about cutbacks

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 13:16 19/08/2014
Raymond Mayes, inquest
Fairfax NZ

UNDER PRESSURE: Science educator Dr Raymond Eric Mayes worked at Waikato Museum, but faced an increasing workload as cutbacks reduced staff numbers.

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A Waikato Museum employee who killed himself just metres from his workplace was a perfectionist who felt isolated after ''losing his museum family'' in a restructure, an inquest has heard.

Dr Raymond Eric Mayes was found dead on the footpath of Gallagher St about 2.10am on Friday, June 21, 2013, the Hamilton Coroner's Court heard this week.

Mayes had just jumped off the Bridge St Bridge prior to calling police to warn them that a body had been found - and that it was his.

On arrival, police found his keys and a suicide note in his pocket. In the Hamilton Coroner's Court yesterday, Mayes' wife Julie, told Coroner Wallace Bain that the ever-increasing pressures from work were key factors in his death.

But the council denied there was a culture of bullying or Mayes had been bullied, and said that none of the staff were aware he was feeling vulnerable.

Coroner Bain has lifted all suppression regarding Mayes' death.

Allan Halse, Mayes' PSA union representative at the council, told the inquest today, that Mayes had felt ''very, very worried'' about the redundancies and the number of his colleagues who were leaving.

Halse said Mayes felt isolated and that the ''museum family'' that he loved was gone forever.

''Immediately [when] I heard of Ray's [Raymond Mayes] death, I wondered if it occurred because Ray was trapped in a job and had no way out unless he left with nothing.'' 

However,  Halse said he had never been concerned about Mayes' health or the fact that he had been a victim of bullying, rather he was a ''very sensitive man''.

Other former employees, who gave evidence to the inquest yesterday, spoke of the new museum director, Cherie Meecham.

It was suggested she was abrupt and operated with an element of fear and that if anyone spoke out about issues they would get ''shot down''.

Alyson Eberle, who still works part time at the museum, told Coroner Bain that she would regularly have lunch with Mayes and said he was worried about the museum's direction in the months leading up to his death.

She had also began to notice he was working on Saturday's more often as he said he had no time to catch up during the week.

However in a light-hearted moment, fellow part time museum worker Greg Locke told the inquest of  Mayes' poor singing skills during their weekly waiata sessions.

''He was normally, notoriously out of tune  ...  he always stood behind me and made it hard for me to stay in tune myself. But this day, I couldn't hear him and looked to see Ray was there and he was hardly singing at all.'' 

The inquest heard that incident was just two days before his death.

On reflection, Locke said it was an odd incident as Mayes was always enthusiastic about the waiata sessions. Cherie Meecham is next to take the stand.

The inquest will conclude today.

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- Waikato Times

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