Man who drowned in Seaford pond was ‘lonely’ after brother’s death

Blatchington Pond, Seaford. Photo by Dan Jessup. SUS-161205-170307001
Blatchington Pond, Seaford. Photo by Dan Jessup. SUS-161205-170307001

A ‘true gentleman’ who drowned in a pond in Seaford had been feeling lonely following the death of his brother, an inquest has heard.

Bert Coleman’s body was found in Blatchington Pond, on Sutton Drove, on January 31, 2016 after he had been reported missing by his goddaughter Carol Jones earlier that morning.

An inquest into his death, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, May 12, heard how Mr Coleman lived in Pondsyde Court, an assisted living complex on Sutton Drove.

Ms Jones had been helping her 95-year-old godfather with everyday tasks, such as shopping, since a deterioration in his health around a year ago.

She told the court Mr Coleman had been feeling unwell in the days leading up to his death and had been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. By the time she spoke to him at around 6pm on Saturday, January 30, he said he was feeling better, but was still a little croaky. She told him to call her if he needed anything.

Ms Jones tried to call Mr Coleman at 9am the following morning, as she usually did, but he did not answer.

Becoming quite concerned, she went round to his house but found he was not at home, and had left his bed unmade and a pile of washing up, which was ‘unusual’ behaviour for him.

In a statement read out in court, Ms Jones said: “I’m confused as to how he would have got out on his own as his mobility is very poor. He uses a zimmer frame or a walking stick and is usually very wobbly on his feet.”

Ms Jones rang 999 to report Mr Coleman as a missing person, and police arrived shortly after.

Conducting a search of the area, Police Constable Adam Rose and Acting Police Sergeant Jim Smith walked towards nearby Blatchington Pond. They first spotted a man’s flat cap floating on the pond and, upon further inspection, later saw what appeared to be a jacket covering the shoulders and torso of a body lying facing down in the water.

Due to the depth of the pond, the officers called East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service for support. Firefighters then retrieved the body from the pond and it was identified as Mr Coleman. He had his walking stick in his right hand.

Ms Jones told the court her godfather had been devastated by the loss of his brother around 18 months ago, with whom he’d been very close. Mr Coleman’s brother had been his last living relative and following his death, Mr Coleman told people he had nobody left and was feeling very lonely and depressed.

Ms Jones and Mr Coleman’s neighbour Charles Funnell told the court Mr Coleman had previously told them he didn’t want to be here anymore and ‘wanted to go to sleep’ but they had not taken that as an intention to take his own life.

Mr Funnell told the court Mr Coleman was a ‘true gent who would not say boo to a goose’.

Coroner Alan Craze said Mr Coleman’s death was a ‘probable suicide’ but the court could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Coleman intended to take his own life.

Mr Craze recorded an open conclusion.

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