Newbury pensioner drowned himself in River Kennet, inquest hears

Ninety-two-year-old had worries over deteriorating health

Chris Ord


Chris Ord

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A 92-year-old man from Newbury drowned himself in the River Kennet after becoming worried about his deteriorating health, an inquest heard.

The body of Charles Hillier was discovered lying face down in the river by a passing cyclist on the morning of Thursday, November 5 last year.

He was found in just two feet of water a short distance from his retirement flat in Mallard Court, near to the town centre.

Paramedics were immediately called to the scene and attempts were made to resuscitate Mr Hillier before he was confirmed dead at 8.10am.

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of death to be drowning, while toxicology reports were found to be negative for alcohol or any medication.

A note written by Mr Hillier was discovered at his flat by police in which he said his health was poor and he was dreading the future.

Mr Hillier, a regular churchgoer in Newbury, signed off the note by saying: “Life is not worth living like this.”

The inquest, held at Reading Town Hall on Tuesday, heard how Mr Hillier had led an active and fit lifestyle until just weeks before his death.

He had suffered from a number of ailments and had recently asked his GP to prescribe stronger pain relief medication for his osteoarthritis.

Those close to him said they had noticed a change, saying he had become less mobile and more withdrawn, and had not left his apartment for six weeks.

It also emerged that during this time Mr Hillier had made enquiries about completing a will.

His nephew, Stephen Carter, told the investigation it was a great shock to find out that his uncle considered his life “no longer enjoyable”, describing him as an independent man.

He added: “Although he had a few niggles, he seemed reasonably happy. With hindsight it would appear he was unhappy, but he didn’t share problems.”

Mr Hillier’s family, who attended the inquest, told the coroner they had accepted that he had taken his own life.

Recording a verdict of suicide, senior coroner for Berkshire Peter Bedford  said: “Notes are, of course, helpful, but can be misleading – rarely are they dated.

“But in this instance it would appear it was left on his writing desk at home to be found.

“His explanation of how he was feeling appear to mirror the descriptions of him in his last few days.”

Mr Bedford said that, based on the closeness to where he lived when his body was found, the fact that Mr Hillier hadn’t been rendered unconscious by medication and the note: “I can be satisfied that he took his own life.”

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