TRIBUTES have poured in after an inquest heard a well-known taxi driver, described by his family as a 'beautiful rainbow', took his own life.

Andrew Hargreaves drove taxis in Barrow for decades until he was found dead close to where he lived earlier this year.

Figures in the taxi trade have joined his family in paying tribute to a grandad, dad and step-dad, who died aged 58.

Cockermouth Coroner's Court heard Mr Hargreaves was found dead by his son in a wooded area near his home in Island Road on June 30.

His wife Angela said a number of factors had formed a 'perfect storm' that led to a downturn in his mental health.

Well-known in the taxi trade, Mr Hargreaves was instantly recognisable by the distinctive vintage red Mercedes he used for work.

His wife of 27 years, Mrs Hargreaves said the car was his 'pride and joy'.

In a statement read in the inquest, she said: "He lived a love-filled life. He was extremely loving.

"He had a passion for boxing and going to the gym.

"He was kind and had a huge heart.

"His family and friends will really struggle with the loss of Andy.

"Andy was and still is a beautiful rainbow."

Mrs Hargreaves told the hearing that her husband's mental health worsened following a non-disabling stroke in 2019 which 'changed him'.

She said his issues became more profound when the country went into lockdown, stopping him from going to the gym and reducing available work.

She said that having been an independent driver, Mr Hargreaves felt he had 'lost his identity' when he joined a firm.

Mrs Hargreaves said her husband was a 'man's man' who did not like to complain.

The hearing was told that Mr Hargreaves was found by his son Jack at around 7am.

It came after he received a concerned text from his mother.

A statement from Mr Hargreaves' GP said the taxi driver had not recently sought medical help for his mental health issues.

Coroner Kally Cheema concluded Mr Hargreaves died by suicide.

Fellow taxi driver Bob Mullen paid tribute to the man known as the 'red baron' because of his unique vehicle.

He said: "He was a character, one of the town's characters.

"And he was very popular. I've never seen as many taxis in a line in my life than at his funeral.

"He was always a familiar site at the ranks."

Mr Mullen added: "You don't know what's going on in people's life "There will be other drivers in the same situation - reach out for help."

Joanne Thompson, manager of Acacia Taxis, the firm he joined in lockdown, said: "I had known him for years and years. He was an old school taxi driver.

"I felt privileged that he came - no-one ever thought he would come to a firm.

"He was just a genuine guy and so sociable. Once you had a conversation with him you felt like a life-long friend."

*Anyone needing support should call Samaritans on 116 123.