A BUSINESSMAN who had debts of more than £1 million and was being investigated by fraud squad officers jumped to his death from a tower at his Utley mansion.

A Bradford inquest was told James Sheldon was being probed by police about claims he had produced anti-terror security equipment that he was trying to sell overseas.

But the hearing was told concerns had been raised by the Department for Trade and Industry and the police were investigating whether the product existed and if Mr Sheldon's company had the capacity to produce the equipment.

Detective Inspector Ian Lawrie, of West Yorkshire Police's economic crime unit, told the hearing there could have been potentially serious consequences for national interests if the idea had been sold overseas when the company did not have the knowledge or technology to produce it.

The inquest heard Mr Sheldon, 42, lived at the 14-bedroomed Whinburn Hall in Hollins Lane, Utley, with his parents, sister and her school-age son. He had gone into business, designing devices to protect emergency services, such as CCTV in ambulances.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Sheldon's father, Anthony, said his son was working on a device to assist the military and was trying to sell it worldwide. He was awaiting a large order from the United Arab Emirates and was putting together a package for Hong Kong Police.

The inquest heard Mr Sheldon and his father had been arrested on allegations of fraud.

On the day of his death, on June 23, two police officers had attended the hall and told them they were to be rebailed for three months for further investigations.

The hearing was told the family had been served an eviction notice to leave the hall in July because Mr Sheldon had not been paying the mortgage. His father said that was a worry for him and the police investigation was putting mounting pressure on him.

Mr Sheldon was found face down on the ground after plunging from the fourth floor tower of the hall. He died from multiple injuries.

He was found by his sister, Sarah, who said in a statement she called 999 and followed the ambulance operator's instructions to roll her brother on to his back and do chest compressions. When police arrived she took an officer to the tower and found that insulation had been removed and the door to the outside was open.

A handwritten note by Mr Sheldon to his family was found in his room. It mentioned "going to help Christopher", believed to be a reference to his brother, who had died at seven weeks old.

Det Insp Lawrie told the inquest Mr Sheldon's company was seeking orders worldwide for his security product and asking for a 100 per cent deposit. He said concerns were raised by an independent institution and businesses about the company's capability to fulfill the orders. Police inquiries had indicated that a go-between, seeking to purchase a substantial number of the machines, had not seen them and had only Mr Sheldon's word to go on; suggestions he had a Ministry of Defence contract were found to be inaccurate; and Mr Sheldon's claim he had a level of expertise from working in the Vauxhall group was wrong.

Det Insp Lawrie said there were substantial financial difficulties, particularly in respect of mortgage arrears, which were almost one million pounds. There were further business debts secured against a property in Southport, and a quarter-of-a-million pound bridging loan.

He said Mr Sheldon and his father were frank with police. They tried to explain their belief in the technology behind their prototype, but could not demonstrate anything that could produce the equipment.

Assistant Bradford Coroner, Oliver Longstaff, said he was satisfied there was no third party involvement in Mr Sheldon's death and there was ample evidence for why he might take his life. There were serious allegations against his company and a "very detailed police investigation conducted entirely properly", as well as severe financial difficulties.

Mr Longstaff said the reference to Christopher in Mr Sheldon's note showed a clear intention to bring his life to an end.

He added: "I am satisfied, to the higher level of proof required, that Mr Sheldon did intend the consequences of his action."

After the inquest, Det Insp Lawrie said Mr Sheldon had taken a stand at a defence security trade show in London in September 2013, and claimed to have an armoured 4x4 vehicle with lasers mounted on the roof, which could detect explosives or drugs from 50 metres.

But Det Insp Lawrie said no company had been able to demonstrate such capabilities with the technology. He said their inquiries had revealed two companies, who had engaged with Mr Sheldon's business, had pulled out because of concerns. Another had been to the hall for a demonstration but had described it as an experiment a first year university student would have tried, but which failed.

He said the investigation into Mr Sheldon's father was ended.

Det Insp Lawrie said Mr Sheldon had debts of at least £1.25 million.