coroner has raised concerns more must be done to protect people from internet dating scams after a lonely bachelor killed himself following being fleeced of thousands of pounds by fraudsters posing as potential girlfriends.
Ian Doney, 51, sent money and paid for flights after believing he had met one girlfriend online and she was travelling to the UK.
After he spent all day waiting fruitlessly at the airport, he went on to give more money for medical bills because he was told her visit had been prevented by an accident.
The shopworker from Grimsby in Lincolnshire was so desperate for happiness he resorted to starving himself so he could afford to meet the incessant demands of his online “partners”.
An inquest on Friday heard Mr Doney was unable to separate fact from fiction and even changed his Facebook status to in a relationship.
He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after repeatedly trying to take his own life which a coroner said stemmed “from these really unfortunate relationships with fraudsters”.
He was finally found dead at his home and died penniless.
The inquest heard Mr Doney had visited a website for single people looking to travel abroad when he began speaking to an individual online in the summer of 2015.
His sister, Gillian Doney, told the inquest at Cleethorpes Town Hall he intended on meeting them during the trip but the rendezvous never materialised.
But after returning home, he changed his Facebook status to “in a relationship” despite never having met the woman behind the messages.
By this time he had already started sending money to the fraudster without his family’s knowledge.
Ms Doney said her brother desperately wanted to meet up with the recipient of his messages and he had hopes of getting married and starting a family.
She said: “He had not had a relationship with anybody. He just wanted a family.”
“He was borrowing money to send over there. He wasn’t eating properly and he was starving himself. Anything he could sell, he sold it.”
The court heard Mr Doney later took an overdose and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
But just as he was beginning to turn his life around, he began messaging other dubious characters online.
Mr Doney died on August 30 last year.
Recording the death as suicide, assistant coroner Jane Eatock said: “I know everyone feels difficult about things like this but actually you couldn’t have done more to help him.
“In the end he’s chosen a way which wasn’t the right way and actually there’s not much anyone could have done to stop that. It’s a really, really tragic story.”
She added: “It’s quite clear that the mental health difficulties stem from these really unfortunate relationships with fraudsters. It is a huge problem,” she said.
“Ian’s capacity as a fully functioning, adult, intelligent, male was sucked away from the last 12 months and he really was in the grip of what has been described as a fantasy.”
Concluding the inquest, Ms Eatock asked mental health managers to look into what more could be done to support individuals who are vulnerable to such instances of fraud and recommended the police send evidence of the correspondence between Mr Doney and the scammers to the UK’s cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud.