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Pensioner was found dead in river, inquest told

PUBLISHED: 13:47 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 06 December 2019

Emergency services beside the river where Mr O'Connor's body was found Picture: Adam Lazzari

Emergency services beside the river where Mr O'Connor's body was found Picture: Adam Lazzari

Archant

An 85-year-old pensioner was found dead in a river, a court was told.

Part of the river was cordoned off while police investigated the discovery  Picture: Adam LazzariPart of the river was cordoned off while police investigated the discovery Picture: Adam Lazzari

William O'Connor's body was found face down in the River Wensum in Fakenham on January 15, an inquest into his death heard.

Engineer Daniel Sampson said in a statement he was walking to work at AOT Engineering in the town when he walked past the mill pool beside the Wensum Lodge Hotel.

He said he saw something floating in the water, which he recognised as a man's body.

Mr Sampson's employer Kevin Anthony called police, the court was told.

Officers attended the scene, off Bridge Street. Det Insp Bruce Clark said in a statement Mr O'Connor had no obvious marks or injuries and there did not appear to have been any sign of a struggle or disturbance.

Mr O'Connor was a widower and retired chief ship's engineer, who lived at Fayregreen, a sheltered housing complex off Norwich Road.

Jacqueline O'Donnel, its development manager, described him as a quiet, gentle person who attended weekly coffee mornings.

She said he had made no mention of any intention to harm himself.

The court heard that on December 18, Mr O'Connor had been admitted to the Julian Hospital in Norwich suffering psychosis. He was discharged on February 10.

Senior mental health nurse Ivan Codling said Mr O'Connor told him he was "back to his old self" during a follow-up visit on February 26.

Mr O'Connor gave a £500 donation to the Sandringham Ward at the hospital, which had treated him in April.

Mr Codling said his mood remained good during his monthly visits, adding: "Mr O'Connor will remain in my memory as a kind and gentle man."

A post mortem revealed Mr O'Connor died from drowning. Assistant coroner for Norfolk Johanna Thompson said: "It is clear Mr O'Connor ended up in the mill pond in Fakenham on the river, the evidence of how he came to be there remains unclear."

She said there was no evidence he intended to take his own life, before recording a narrative conclusion that he died as a result of drowning in the mill pond in circumstances which remained unknown but were not suspicious.

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