A MAN killed himself after being traumatised first by a vicious York assault and then by police suggestions he might have caused the injuries himself, an inquest heard.

City Screen cinema manager Justin Berry was almost strangled after being knocked off his bike while cycling home late one night in April across wasteground near York station.

He died about a fortnight later after sending a final text message to his partner, Adam Petch, saying: "I will always love you."

Mr Petch raised the alarm and Justin's father, John, found his body in a fume-filled car parked just off the A64 near Kirkham Abbey.

Mr Petch told the inquest in Easingwold yesterday that Justin, 31, of Holgate Road, York, had been shocked and traumatised by the assault. "He could have died," he said.

But when York police later interviewed him about the incident, he had been very troubled by the type of questions asked." He said: "They think I might have done it," said Mr Petch.

"He couldn't understand why they were asking him those sorts of questions, as if they expected him to be some sort of pervert because he was gay."

He said Justin had suffered from depression late last year, requiring antidepressants to be prescribed, but he had seemed a "good bit better" in the weeks before the assault.

The attack had caused him swollen and closed eyes and a swollen head, and it made him very depressed.

"One evening he couldn't stop crying," he recalled.

Coroner Michael Oakley, recording a verdict that Justin Berry killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed, said Mr Berry had been traumatised by the "very vicious assault" and then "somewhat traumatised" by the police inquiries.

Mr Petch said afterwards he planned to raise with police the way that Justin had been questioned after the assault.

He understood that officers had to fully investigate the incident, but felt they could have dealt with Justin more sensitively and sympathetically.

North Yorkshire police spokesman Ron Johnson said that in an investigation of this kind, officers had to keep an open mind and explore every avenue.

"It's not a matter of being insensitive, but one of being professional, and we hope that the family and friends involved will understand that."

He said inquiries had not resulted in any arrest.

Updated: 11:03 Tuesday, October 21, 2003