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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Death of Ulverston man found in sands accidental

A MAN with a history of mental health problems was found dead in an estuary weeks after he went missing, an inquest heard.

Police carried out a large-scale search of the Ulverston area after Mark Westall went missing from his North Lonsdale Road home, where he lived with his mum, on January 23.

A member of the public found the 44-year-old’s body in the sands, near Greenodd, on March 17.

The post mortem report concluded drowning was the cause of death and Mr Ian Smith, South and East Cumbria coroner, yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mum Ida Gough told the inquest into her son’s death he had been mentally ill for 20 years.

She said on four or five occasions he was sectioned and admitted to hospital for three to four months, most recently in 2009. Mrs Gough told the Barrow Town Hall hearing he was “very paranoid” and rarely left the house.

Describing his health before his disappearance, she said: “He was very, very bad. I couldn’t communicate with him at all and he complained of voices in his head.”

Mrs Gough said her son once attempted to cut his wrists, but that was more than 20 years ago and there was no suggestion he would do it again.

She said “nobody could believe it” when Mr Westall went missing because he left the house so rarely. The inquest heard Mr Westall drank a lot of alcohol, smoked cannabis and took speed to boost his confidence if he was leaving the house and speaking to people.

Doctor Avice Simpson, consultant psychiatrist with the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, met Mr Westall two or three times as an out-patient and last saw him in August 2011.

She told the inquest: “He was quite a quiet chap, but he didn’t seem any different.

“There was no cause to admit him to hospital – there were no concerns of that order.”

Lynn Lambeth, Mr Westall’s mental health social worker, said, during his worst periods, he was “paranoid and frightened of danger”.

Shortly before he went missing, she said he displayed some “disturbing symptoms” and was scared of noises he was hearing outside the house.

Coroner Mr Smith believed on the night he went missing, Mr Westall “went into autopilot” and followed the route to Canal Head he had taken many times with his mum and previous care worker, before accidentally falling into the estuary. He commended the work of Ms Lambeth and the emergency services who searched for Mr Westall.

Zak Golombeck, solicitor for Mr Westall’s family, said the inquest had brought “some closure”.

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