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Father suddenly reveals "suicide note" was found near cliffs after son vanished three months ago prompting extensive search

The father of a missing 17-year-old boy says he now believes his son took his own life as he revealed for the first time a note was found near cliffs near where was last seen.

Finnian Layland-Stratfield was last seen near Tintagel's youth hostel in Cornwall by a walker on the evening of Saturday, July 8.

At about 5.30pm the next day, a rucksack containing some of his personal belongings - including the note - were located on cliffs above Hole Beach in Tintagel.

His father has also revealed a light and a boot belonging to Finn was also discovered.

On the following Monday, police issued an appeal for witnesses saying that they were 'extremely concerned' for Finn's welfare.

Nearly four months later, some family, friends and members of the community are still looking for Finn.

But his father, John Layland, says he was told by police last week that proactive searches for Finn have now ceased.

And he said that it is his belief that his son took his own life, Cornwall Live reports.

The items including the note were found on Hole Beach, near Trebarwith Strand, North Cornwall
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Mr Layland also disclosed that a note, written by Finn, was found in the rucksack above the cliffs.

“It’s my opinion, and the police’s opinion, that Finn has taken his own life,” Mr Layland told Cornwall Live.

“The police told me, right from the beginning, that they thought this. However they had to go through the natural process.

“We had a meeting last Saturday (October 14), and we were told by the police that they will keep the case open, because officially he’s still missing. But proactive searches have now ceased.

“Out of respect for others I have waited for this moment before making my statement.

“What I want to emphasise is that I don’t want to upset anyone, I just want to put across the facts, and it’s up to people then to make up their own mind.

“I want to put Finn to rest and make some form of closure."

Mr Layland revealed that Finn left a note above the cliffs, where he believes his son jumped.

“I don’t want to upset too many people,” he said.

“But there are people are still out there looking for him, who don’t know that he left a suicide note at all. So people are going to think that he’s run away.

“We are still searching the beaches, there’s nothing to say people can’t still search the beaches, but we know what for.

Finnian was last seen near Tintagel's youth hostel in Cornwall by a walker

Disabled teenager loses college place because he's trapped in top-floor flat with 41 stairs as only way out

“But wild goose chases across the country for a living person are fruitless. And it’s making it more painful for us.”

Mr Layland said: “He was very spiritual and he strongly believed there was something better on the other side.”

The father and his partner, Jan Brown, also revealed what happened on the day Finn was last seen.

At the time, Finn was living with his father and Ms Brown in Marshgate, near Boscastle.

“On the Saturday, I dropped him to Tintagel at about 5.30pm,” Ms Brown said.

“He told us he was going to see his mate, but no arrangements had actually been made.

“He was seen in a pub in Tintagel, where he had four double rums. He went to the toilet, and all this was caught on CCTV.

“Then he was caught on camera going out of the pub and down Vicarage Hill toward the church.

"He was seen by a man walking towards the cliffs, at a fair old pace, at about 6.30pm. He seemed OK. Within 15 minutes, his phone went dead.

“The way he cuddled his dad so much when he said goodbye to him, and leaned over in the car and cuddled me goodbye; normally it would be a quick peck on the cheek.

“When you look back on it, it figures completely. It makes so much sense.

"About 15 minutes before his phone went dead he also messaged his best friend saying, 'bye, bro'."

As well as the note, Mr Layland says a lighter and a boot belonging to Finn were also discovered.

“A metre or two below the cliff where they think he jumped they found a lighter, which was confirmed as his, through DNA,” he said.

“They also found a boot at Wanson Mouth, just to the south of Widemouth Bay, on September 22, a day before his 18th birthday. That has been identified as his by family.”

Mr Layland revealed that in the 12-month period before he went missing, his son had self-harmed and struggled with anxiety and addictions to pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol.

At the time of his disappearance, Finn was living with his father and Ms Brown in Marshgate, near Boscastle

“We’ve seen the downward spiral over a period of 12 months. Finn had a mental problem, induced really by the misuse of pharmaceutical drugs. He had a bit of a nature for experimenting, and he liked pushing things to the limit.

“But had I known there were vulnerabilities, I would have done something sooner.

“He lost weight, he couldn’t cope with college and dropped out. He was desperately unhappy. We basically said to him that his mental health and wellbeing was most important, and that we would support him if he wanted to work full-time, with the option of going back to college anytime.

“So he got a full-time job, gardening, but he struggled even then to go to work.

“He didn’t like to live in the box; he could have been real pioneer, he wanted to travel, he had no aspirations to do a 9 to 5 job. He wanted to do volunteer work in Africa. But all of a sudden, all his aspirations went out of the window.

“He spiralled in the last three months of his life. He was a very emotional character, and he really hit rock bottom.

“We felt so helpless at the end. You can’t lock a nearly 18-year-old lad in his bedroom. We wanted to, but you can’t.

“We were screaming at these folk [mental health services]. Conversations with the GP went on right to the end.”

Finnian Layland-Stratfield was last seen near Tintagel's youth hostel in Cornwall

The family was in contact with the mental health services, although Mr Layland says they struggled to access them.

He wishes he had acted sooner, and wishes to send a message to other parents who are going through something similar to what Finn's family members did.

“The writing was on the wall and we didn’t act quickly enough,” he said. “It was too little, too late. That’s the sad truth. And I have got to live with myself for the rest of my life.

I want to get to people’s hearts, so they read this and their children are protected by this. Some good has got to come out of this.

“We need to raise awareness of the symptoms; if parents think that their children are following the same path, they need to seek help earlier than we did. It’s frightening how many youngsters have this same problem.

“If there is any suspicion that their children are using drugs, grab the bull by the horns. Don’t be complacent and think the problem will go away, because it won’t. And don’t just take your child’s word for it; Finn would say he had control of it, but he didn’t.”

Mr Layland described Finn as “the best son I could ever have hoped for”.

He said: “I had a very close relationship with Finn; spiritually, emotionally and physically.

“And he would talk to us about anything. I’m positive if he was going to run away, he would have told me, or he would have contacted me by now. And he wouldn’t have put me through it.

“He was my soul mate, and lovely to be around, although he wasn’t latterly. But, as a son, he was the best I could have wished for. He was gentlemanly, kind, supportive, and very protective over his family. And very popular with his friends and in the community.

“The change was so tragic to see. We knew, but we felt that we didn’t do enough.”

My Layland says that the only item that was missing from Finn’s bedroom was a gift he had given to his son to celebrate his beliefs in paganism.

“Finn went with his prized possession, which I had given to him as a spiritual and ceremonial gift to celebrate his beliefs in paganism.

“He took that with him; it’s the only thing that’s gone from his room. To us it’s another thing which proves that he knew where he was going; in his mind he knew exactly what he was doing.

"Finally, I would like to thank the whole of the community for its support at this difficult time. I'm humbled."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that the proactive searches for Finn have now ceased.

The spokesperson said: “The family is aware that following extensive searches by both the police and members of the public, we have only been able to locate items belonging to Finnian, who himself remains missing; we have no current active leads in this investigation.

“In the case of Finnian, as with all missing people within Devon and Cornwall, they will remain as an active missing person and the investigation will remain open, until a person is either found safe and well or a body is located.

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
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