Son pays tribute to ‘kind and loving’ musician who drowned in Sheffield canal

A son has paid tribute to his ‘kind and loving’ father who drowned in a Sheffield canal.

Monday, 8th April 2019, 12:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 17:18 pm

Nicholas White was found dead in the canal basin at Victoria Quays on September 4 last year, eight days before he would have turned 46.

An inquest heard how the father-of-one, who had battled depression for most of his life and had been sleeping rough, stumbled into the water during the early hours of that morning after taking the drug spice.

Nicholas White, who was found dead in the canal at Victoria Quays

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But his 15-year-old son Layne, who attended the inquest at Sheffield with family and friends, told of happier times before his father’s descent into drug and alcohol dependency.

Speaking outside Sheffield Coroner’s Court, he described how he had been very close to his dad, who was a talented musician and would entertain him with private performances at home.

“He was such a kind and loving dad and I miss him so much,” he said.

“When I was younger, I saw him most weekends and he would play guitar for me. We had a great time listening to music and watching TV together. We both loved Take Me Out, The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy.

“He was an excellent guitarist and songwriter, who was a big Thin Lizzy fan and could play all their songs, and he had a great sense of humour.”

Nick, as he was known, lived in Monk Bretton, in Barnsley, and as a young man had worked alongside his father for the now-defunct clothing manufacturer SR Gent.

A friend told how Nick had always dreamed of making it as a professional musician, and had played in a couple of bands - Arkham Asylum and My Heroine - which performed at pubs in the region.

But the inquest heard how he had a history of depression and had long struggled with heroin and alcohol abuse before he began using the highly addictive drug spice – a synthetic form of cannabis known for reducing users to a ‘zombie-like’ state – in his later years.

Detective Constable Matt Williams, who investigated Mr White’s death, told how CCTV footage had shown him tottering around on his own beside the canal for around 15 minutes before bumping into a refuelling point and veering into the water at around 2.50am.

He said Mr White, whose body was found at around 10am that morning, had appeared to be ‘under the influence’ and the video showed him making ‘very little effort’ to get out of the canal.

Mr White, whose family said he had been homeless for around a year-and-a-half before his death, was identified by police from the hospital wristband he had been wearing.

The court heard he had been treated at Northern General Hospital just a couple of weeks earlier after falling off a bench having taken spice, cutting his head and briefly knocking himself out.

Statements from his GP and mental health support workers revealed he had sought help in the past, and was prescribed anti-depressants, but had frequently failed to attend follow-up appointments.

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Abigail Combes concluded that spice had played a part in his death.

“Between September 3 and 4, Mr White had taken a number of drugs including synthetic cannabinoids, and this affected his behaviour, causing him to fall into the canal basin, where he died,” she said.