Jury rules New Mills bridge death not suicide

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A man found dead under a bridge in New Mills had attempted suicide the year before, an inquest heard.

On Thursday, the jury at the three-day hearing in Chesterfield returned a narrative verdict, ruling they were not satisfied Roy Townsend chose to end his life.

The 53-year-old, of Jubilee Street, was pronounced dead by paramedics at 8.01pm on a footpath below Church Road on April 13, 2012.

A passer-by saw him stood on the 30-metre high bridge, looking down with his arms outstretched on the railings at 7.35pm.

After hearing a thud like “a suitcase hitting the ground”, he rushed back to find Mr Townsend’s body on the ground.

Assistant coroner Sophie Cartwright recorded the cause of death as multiple injuries due to a fall from a height.

The jury heard the deceased, who was born in Stockport, had a history of mental health issues. The former British Rail worker had been unemployed for two decades, after retiring on medical grounds due to suffering from epileptic fits.

The inquest heard he had attempted to take his own life in August 2011 by cutting his throat and forearm as he could not come to terms with a traumatic incident, which was not disclosed, that happened 30 years ago.

On the day of his death, Mr Towsend had been for a walk and seen a woman related to the incident, which triggered a psychotic episode.

When he returned to his bungalow, he called helpline Carelink, who sent support assistant Kerry Woodhouse to see him at 3.15pm. Mr Townsend said he could not stop thinking about the “incident” and she contacted social care charity the Amber Trust, who requested a visit from his GP and a safe and well check from police.

PCs Webster and Taylor, who attended at 5pm, recalled Mr Townsend seemed relaxed but admitted he had been feeling low. When asked if he was suicidal, he replied he was “too yellow for that”.

Dr Andrew Fisher, of Arden House Medical Practice, arrived at 6.15pm and said his patient was “really upset” because he felt bad about the “incident”. He arranged an appointment for him to see a counsellor on the Monday morning.

A postmortem revealed injuries to the chest, arm and pelvis and a toxicology report showed that Mr Townsend’s body contained anti-epileptic and anti-psychotic medication, but at lower levels than prescribed.