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Drowned man may have blacked out, inquest hears

John Bentham was a regular at the Butt Inn and route home was on towpath

John Garvey

john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk

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A MAN whose body was found in the Kennet and Avon Canal suffered from blackouts, an inquest heard.

Earlier, John Geoffrey Bentham had been drinking in The Butt Inn, Aldermaston, before setting off along the towpath to his boat at Aldermaston Wharf, the hearing in Reading Town Hall was told on Friday.

The manager of the nearby marina, Dave Thomas, said in a statement how he saw a body in the water and called emergency services on November 27 last year.

He said he recognised the body as that of 37-year-old Mr Bentham.

Mr Bentham’s estranged partner, Lucy Bentham, told the hearing that he “enjoyed a drink – sometimes a little too much”.

She said he was a regular at The Butt Inn, which was not far from the boat on which he was living, and spent most evenings there.

Mrs Bentham also told the coroner that he suffered from occasional blackouts and that his normal route home was along the canal towpath.

Mr Bentham’s GP at The Bucklebury Practice also reported that he had blacked out while driving in 2012.

Post mortem tests showed he had drunk at least three-and-a-half times the legal limit for driving and that Mr Bentham suffered from severe narrowing of the coronary arteries.

The cause of death was drowning.

There were some cuts to the face and bridge of the nose, but these may have been caused after death, the inquest heard.

Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford said: “It is not impossible, it seems to me, that he has staggered, fallen in and been unable to get out – or had a temporary dizzy spell, blacked out and fallen in.

“All of that permits me to conclude it was an accident.

“Beyond that – for example, that someone pushed him in – there’s no evidence.

“I can only go by the evidence and apply the most likely explanation and, on the balance of probabilities, this was an accident.”

A member of Mr Bentham’s family raised a concern, pointing out that his boat had been broken into the day after his death.

Mr Bedford acknowledged that, but added: “I need to start with what’s most likely.

“There’s no evidence or witness or camera showing how he tragically came to be in the water.

“But logically, from the evidence we’ve heard, it seems to me the appropriate conclusion for me to record is one of ‘accident’.”

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