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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Barrow man died at sea - inquest

A BARROW businessman who drowned at sea may have died because brain surgery left him “unable to recognise danger”, an inquest heard.

The body of ex-Barrow Raiders commercial director, Peter Millican, 46, of Abbey Road, was recovered from the sea off Askam pier on February 5.

The inquest, at Barrow Town Hall yesterday, heard Mr Millican had been recovering from a rare condition called Type 2 Arnold-Chiari malformation, in which the lower part of the brain is pushed downwards towards the spinal cord.

Mr Millican’s partner of 11 years, Jane O’Hare, told the coroner’s court his condition had been misdiagnosed by doctors for two years.

She said if the condition had been spotted sooner, at Type 1 stage, a simple procedure could have corrected it.

Instead on May 26 last year Mr Millican underwent a seven-hour operation which wiped three years of his memory and left him with brain damage and agoraphobia (fear of going outside).

He was left unable to remember his mother’s birthday party three months before the operation or the previous three Christmases.

Mr Millican was also unable to perform tasks such as operating a remote control or working a toaster – but Ms O’Hare said he had been making steady improvements in the months before his death.

“Peter realised he wasn’t the same person anymore,” she said.

Ms O’Hare spoke of setting her partner “little goals” and said he had been in better spirits before his death.

“We had a party at my house and he was the life and soul,” she said.

Ms O’Hare told the court: “We came to realise after the operation Pete did not click where there was danger.”

She said he had once tried to remove a chicken from the oven with his bare hands before he was stopped.

He had also been picked up after previous walks on Askam beach “soaking wet” because he could not recognise bad weather would present a danger.

The court heard CCTV cameras at the family home showed the last images of Mr Millican alive getting into a taxi – probably to visit his mother.

Ms O’Hare said: “You could see he was happy, he was walking tall and he was smiling.”

Summing up, coroner Mr Ian Smith described Mr Millican as a man with a “very nasty” condition who underwent “very severe” surgery.

He said: “Where some people just lay down and accept it he fought back to regain the skills he lost through the operation, making good progress.

“This was a man who recognised he had a problem but knew how to deal with it.”

Mr Smith said the most likely scenario was that Mr Millican fell into the water and was unable to get out. He recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Ms O’Hare told the Evening Mail: “We are relieved about the verdict but the family is still heartbroken. He really did fight to get better.” 

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