The mother of a man who died after being hit by a train said he was trying to turn his life around but was condemned as a “bad man” by a “cruel and callous” probation officer, an inquest has heard.

John McCarthy, who had been homeless and had taken recreational drugs in the past, had moved from his mother’s home in Byways, Burnham, to Ireland for a fresh start and was happy.

But he had to come back home to England to deal with an outstanding criminal case.

While back in England, he walked to Taplow railway station late at night on December 9, 2019, and was hit by a train. He died aged 47.

His body was found the next morning.

A statement from John’s mother Mary at an inquest into his death said that her son had been “homeless and desperate” seven months before he died and had been feeling depressed but was “making a real effort” to sort his life out.

He had moved to Ireland and Mary said he was happy there. She said: “He was eating properly, he was great. He had no problems with drugs, he was happy and always helping people. I had my son back. He loved driving, which he could do there. He was healthy and doing well.”

He then received a call from the police about an outstanding criminal case, so he returned to England while he dealt with it.

Mary said he was “determined to deal with it and be free” but added: “His probation officer concluded he was a bad man. John was very upset by this. He asked me ‘am I a bad man?’

“He needed help, not to be put down in a callous and cruel manner.”

He had been due to see the probation officer the day after he died.

Mary said her son had been looking forward to Christmas, returning to Ireland and a trip to Spain in 2020 and did not think her son had intentionally ended his life.

The mother and son had been messaging each other between December 6 and December 9, the day he went to Taplow railway station, and there was nothing “unusual or untoward” about his texts.

Speaking at the inquest at Buckinghamshire Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, Christina Butler from British Transport Police said John was seen on CCTV at Taplow station at 11.43pm on December 9.

It is not clear what happened next, as no train driver reported seeing anything unusual, but John’s body was discovered mid-morning on the tracks on December 10.

John’s phone had shown a search for train times made on December 9. He had not bought any train tickets.

John had a long-term diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, but a community mental health nurse said he had been engaging with their services and there were no concerns that he was thinking of taking his own life.

A family member who was at the inquest into John’s death on Wednesday agreed that he had “never, ever seen him suicidal”, adding: “He didn’t leave a note. He would have said if he wasn’t doing well.”

Senior coroner for Bucks Crispin Butler said it was a “sad situation”. He said: “He had real support from a loving family, he had engaged with mental health services.

“I don’t think there is any evidence he accidentally fell off the platform. He went to the station intentionally but I don’t know why he did that. Did he intend his life to end? Messages sent on the day were perfectly ordinary. His probation meeting the next day is the nearest thing we have to a trigger.

“I don’t have anything that indicates he intended to put himself in the path of a train. I can’t say it was an accident because we just don’t know what was going through his mind.”

Mr Butler recorded an open conclusion.