A senior Army officer shot himself dead after becoming overwhelmed by pressures of military life, an inquest heard today.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Shaw, 52, was finding it increasingly difficult to manage his work as deputy commander of the Warminster Garrison.

The inquest heard evidence from other Army officers who spoke of how cuts to Col Shaw's support staff increased his own workload.

The married father-of-three was also due to retire from the Army in three years and was worried about his future career and paying his children's school fees.

The inquest at Gloucestershire Coroner's Court also heard that Col Shaw believed he had relationship difficulties with his elderly mother and his own children.

His wife, Angela, found him dead in his car on the morning of Sunday, June 2 this year in a secluded country lane at Quenington, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. He last spoke to Mrs Shaw on the telephone at around 5pm the previous evening.

He had left their home in Warminster that afternoon having told his wife he was going to an appointment at a gun shop in Cirencester to sell his weapons.

When he failed to return home Mrs Shaw thought he had gone to see his elderly mother who lived in Fairford.

On the Sunday morning Mrs Shaw drove to her mother-in-law's home and when she saw that his car was not there went to look for him.

She found her husband slumped in the front seat of his car with a gunshot wound to his chest and a rifle by his side.

The inquest heard that Col Shaw also had a copy of the Bible on his lap and had written the word 'sorry' in condensation on the windscreen.

Around a dozen notes were also found addressed to his family and friends, which he had left in his car and at home.

Col Shaw had also left his office at the Army base "immaculate", leaving all his paperwork in order and on a whiteboard had written an up to date "to do" list, which at the bottom he had again written "sorry". His mobile phone was also recovered from his office.

In a written statement, Mrs Shaw said that from January this year he confided in her that things were getting on top of him.

"He was not his usual self and he started to obsess about small matters, which had become very serious to him," she said.

"He had started a mild course of anti-depressants and he exhibited considerable anxiety over lots of things."

Mrs Shaw said he was concerned the police would seize his legally-held firearms if they knew he had been taking anti-depressants.

The inquest heard that Col Shaw, who held strong religious beliefs, had confided in an Army chaplain about his feelings and had also started seeing a therapist.

Col Shaw, who had served in Bosnia and Kosovo, had been evacuated from the first Gulf War in 1991 suffering acute stress having exacerbated a pre-existing depression and spent time recuperating in hospital.

The inquest heard evidence from Major William Common, who was critical of the workload placed upon Col Shaw.

He said he had first met Col Shaw in July 2010 when he was posted to Warminster to take over from him as deputy commander.

"I worked reasonably closely with Robert Shaw who I found to be a thoroughly decent, approachable, genial, charming man," Mjr Common said.

"It was clear to me that Robert found it difficult to meet the competing demands of his role as CO and deputy garrison commander.

"He always worked a full day and was often still in his office when I left yet he seemed to find it hard to programme routine activities like writing timely appraisal reports of his civilian and military staff.

"His grasp of the critical garrison-wide PFI contract, Project Allenby/Connaught, was never more than minimal."

He said that the supporting staff posts were left vacant and the arrival of Colonel Peter Merriman as commander of Warminster Garrison in 2011 saw an increase in Col Shaw's workload.

Maj Common said Col Merriman was "determined" to set up a new officers'

training course and build a new larger gymnasium at the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster.

"I believe Col Merriman paid scant regard to Robert Shaw's lack of staff support and placed unreasonable demands upon him and his depleted staff. I could see that Robert Shaw was put between a rock and hard place while trying to meet Col Merriman's demands by appearing 'can do' against a background of lack of resources."

Maj Common said his last meeting with Col Shaw was on May 21 when he was shocked by his appearance.

"Robert was standing over his desk pouring over some papers. He looked tired and depressed and would neither meet my gaze or engage in conversation," he said.

"I was shocked by his demeanour as in our three years he had always been open, friendly and welcome. He seemed to me to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown."

"I do not know why Robert Shaw took his own life. I do know that while a thoroughly decent man, he was an officer of limited ability, short staffed and under great pressure at work.

"He clearly found it extremely difficult to prioritise and to manage his time in the workplace without the added pressures of creating new training courses and building additional unplanned facilities.

"It was completely unfair and totally unreasonable to expect Robert Shaw to provide unit level support services, including meeting additional demands, without adequate staff."

The inquest also heard evidence from Rev Mark Haldon-Jones, an Army padre, who said that Col Shaw had described to him problems he felt he had in his relationship with his parents, in particular his mother.

Acting Gloucestershire Coroner David Dooley summarised the padre's evidence.

He said: "He had lost his deputy and there was an increased workload but even in those circumstances the padre confirms he behaved like a true gentleman and saw his service in Queen and country.

"Robert was obviously a troubled soul and they often talked in biblical terms and Robert had started carrying a New Testament.

"The padre encouraged Robert to look to his family rather than the Army as he only had a few years left before his retirement.

Mr Dooley added: "Robert was constantly using the phrase my loving little family and was clearly desiring to be a family man but felt he was not a good husband, father or son and this was reflected in a great reduction of his own self-esteem over this period.

"Lt Col Shaw confided in me on the Friday morning before his death by mobile phone and he seemed very calm and completely different from the manifestation of the previous months.

"From his conversation and voice I genuinely believed he had moved on and he seemed more at ease with himself."

The inquest heard that Col Shaw had discussed with colleagues taking leave.

"He was particularly distracted and he focused on issues that required less attention," Major Lisa Phillips said in a statement.

"He asked for several briefs on the same issues yet continued to ask every 10 to 15 minutes for updates as if he had not heard the information.

"He called me three times later that night to confirm the same details and I asked again if all was well and he responded 'We all have too much work to do' and that was amidst several long silences."

Mjr Phillips, who examined Col Shaw's office following his death, added: "His personal diary was empty and this level of organisation was unusual based on the time I have worked alongside him.

"It felt impersonal and rationally organised."

Col Shaw, who had been married 20 years, had seen his GP and had been prescribed both sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.

A post-mortem examination found that Col Shaw had died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Toxicology tests found traces of the medication he had been prescribed.

No traces of alcohol or other non-prescribed drugs were found during the blood tests.

Col Merriman said in a statement that Col Shaw was "a deeply compassionate and conscientious man" but he had begun to look "tired and worn" from Easter onwards.

In the week before his death Col Merriman said Col Shaw told him he had been getting medical help for his mental health.

Col Shaw had also told colleagues he would have left the Army had it not been for his three children's school fees.

Mr Dooley recorded a conclusion of suicide saying that he believed Col Shaw had suffered chronic anxiety and a depressive neurosis for much of his life.

"Events on the frontline in war, perhaps unsuitability for an administrative job requiring talents in excess of his abilities in that particular field, heavy work pressure and problems in personal relationships all appear to have chipped away at his confidence," Mr Dooley said.

"That has resulted in an overwhelming loss of self esteem. This has resulted in a spiral of unhappiness and mental decline and increased anxiety, the symptoms of sleep loss, obsessive behaviour over minor matters and the lack of concentration undoubtedly made his job even harder and less able to cope.

"Here we have a senior army officer who feels ashamed of himself, who thinks he has failed - whether or not that is the case - and also has failed to discuss the problems."

Mrs Shaw, who was represented during the hearing by barrister Jonathan Rees QC, did not wish to speak as she left the inquest.