River death man, 36, took drugs overdose

The body of a missing man was found floating “upright and motionless” in a river close to his home after he had taken a suspected overdose.

Lee Hill, from Ballingdon Street, Sudbury, was discovered in the water of the River Stour near to Ballingdon Bridge on August 10.

An inquest into the death of the 36-year-old factory worker heard that he had been missing for six days and had a history of self-harm.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean said Mr Hill had been found by a walker at around 8pm and his body appeared to be standing upright with his “head poking up” out of the river.

In a written statement read out during the hearing, Pc Wayne Sturman said: “I attended a report of a body in the water.

“There was a male figure floating upright and motionless. Two inches of his head were out of the water.”

Mr Hill was recovered from the water at 8.35pm and taken to West Suffolk Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A police search of his body found keys and four empty packets of medication. There were no signs of any violence.

Tuesday’s hearing was told that Mr Hill had been reported as missing by his sister Victoria and was the subject of a police missing persons search. He had been taking anti-depressants, as well as methadone – a prescribed heroin substitute.

A report compiled by forensic pathologist Nat Cary stated that a mixture of drugs, including methadone and morphine, were found in Mr Hill’s system along with anti-depressants.

“The report is consistent with an overdose, but drowning is also a possibility given he was found in water,” said Mr Dean.

Mr Cary’s report detailed wounds on both Mr Hill’s forearms, which were evidence of self-harm, but nothing which suggested an assault or restraint.

Mr Dean said a mental health assessment of Mr Hill had been carried out in the past and no evidence of underlying mental illness had surfaced, although there had been an incident on July 31.

“The self-harm was triggered by a problem which it was believed had passed,” he said.

“It was believed to be a cry for help – he was feeling low after losing his benefits and had other worries. He complained of panic attacks, but had no suicidal plans.”

Mr Dean said those who treated Mr Hill described him as “always appropriate with a consistently pleasant nature.”

Recording an open verdict, Mr Dean said: “There is no evidence as to how he came to be in the water, whether it was an intentional act or if he fell into the water due to the influence of the drugs he had taken.”

Speaking after her brother’s death, Victoria Hill, from Great Cornard, said he had been living in homeless accommodation in Sudbury.

“I loved him so much and he was always there for me,” said Miss Hill. “He was a lovely man and I hope the pain I’m feeling will get easier.”

Mr Hill, who was born in south east London, had two young children, Liam and Chloe.