Inquest stopped to trace mystery man

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THE INQUEST into the death of a man found drowned in a river has been halted after a coroner asked police to investigate further.

The body of epilepsy sufferer Neil Ashmore, aged 46, was found in the River Rother, off Spital Lane, Chesterfield, by dog walker Agnes Stepaniuk.

The inquest into his death was halted by deputy north Derbyshire coroner Nigel Anderson after he was told that a man had told Mr Ashmore’s sister that he’d seen him the night before his death.

Adjourning the inquest, Mr Anderson said: “If he was with him the night before he died we ought to hear from him, to see if he can throw some light on his movements.”

The court heard Mr Ashmore was staying at Chesterfield Lodge, Derby Road, Chesterfield, and was last seen the night before his death when he had a male visitor.

Owner Lewis Williams said Mr Ashmore told him he was staying out that night and left.

“That was the last time Neil was seen alive. The other person hasn’t been traced,” said Mr Anderson.

Mr Williams said Mr Ashmore seemed spaced out in the period before his death, and was under the influence of his medication or something else.

He had also told his GP he was struggling to cope in the community.

A letter found in his bedroom, written by a male friend, was shown to his father, Richard, and his sister, Lisa Mercer.

Laura said the man told her at her brother’s funeral he’d seen Mr Ashmore on the night before his death.

She left police a phone message about the man but heard nothing further.

Mr Anderson said there was insufficient evidence of suicide, no suspicious circumstances and Mr Ashmore could have fallen into the river accidentally.

Pc Les Hunter said Mr Ashmore’s legs became trapped beneath a submerged pipe and handmarks on a girder suggested he had tried to grab it to stop himself being dragged along.

He said: “The water was very cold and the current was really fast. It’s possible that his legs became trapped and he couldn’t get himself back up.”

Pathologist Dr Donesh Taraaporewalla said Mr Ashmore had died from drowning.