Mystery surrounds cyclist’s death after body found in River Wye

By Jake Chown  
Wednesday 2nd September 2015 8:23 am
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A CORONER could not decide last week how 64-year-old cyclist Stephen Midwinter ended up dead in the River Wye in May.

The keen cyclist had set off for one of his regular bike rides in the Forest of Dean when he went

missing.

Mr Midwinter, of Watermead, Lydney, who suffered from a ’significant cognitive impairment,’ disappeared on 8th May and his body was found in the river by a canoeist almost three weeks later.

Gloucestershire coroner Katie Skerrett recorded an open verdict on Mr Midwinter’s death last Thursday (27th August), saying it was probably an accident but she could not be certain of that from the facts available.

Sergeant Mark Burns said Mr Midwinter was reported missing by one of his carers, Stuart Wye, on 8th May.

"It was assumed at that time that he had gone for a bike ride, which he did on a regular basis," the Sgt said.

"He was last seen at 1pm that day at Highgrove Farm, Park Lane, St Briavels. Stuart Wye saw him outside the farm gates.

"He was then seen to cycle off towards the village.

"This was not unusual as he often did so for a few hours at a time. When he did not return at 8pm his carers reported him missing believing he had got lost or run into trouble.

"He had previously gone missing and had been found wandering without his trousers on railway tracks in Chippenham.

"He was prone to get easily confused and he had poor memory. It was believed he was suffering from some form of dementia but this was undiagnosed.

"A search was carried out at his home but nothing was discovered. Unfortunately he had no mobile phone and did not have control of his bank account so no checks of that kind could be made.”

Sgt Burns added: "Several press releases were issued and numerous members of the public rang in with reported sightings but he remained missing and was reclassified as being at high risk.

"Unfortunately on 25th May his body was recovered from the Wye between Tintern Abbey and Wyntours Leap.

"The next day his fingerprints were checked and provided positive identification."

Richard Morgan, who found the body, said he set off at 7am from Portskewett to kayak to Brockweir and at 10.55am noticed what he thought was discolouration in the water. On getting closer he saw it was a body lying face down on the incline of the bank.

Because he was concerned the rising tide would cause the body to submerge he secured it with a strap then raised the alarm and waited for the emergency services to arrive.

The coroner said she had received a full medical history of Mr Midwinter from the Lydney practice and the 2Gether mental health trust which showed he had cognitive impairment and limited speech abilities. His level of risk was described as moderate.

A full care package had been put in place for him after a mental health and psychological assessment in September 2013.

A pathologist gave cause of death as drowning.

The coroner said despite a full investigation it remained a mystery how Mr Midwinter ended up in the river.

"It may well have  been an accidental fall into the river, particularly in view of this gentleman’s known medical history," she said. "But there is not enough evidence for me to be satisfied that this was an accident. It possibly was but I cannot be sure in probability.

"There is nothing suspicious about the circumstances but we just cannot be clear how he ended up getting into the water. There is no suggestion of suicidal ideation."

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