Open verdict on drowned driver

PUBLISHED: 13:59 17 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:28 04 May 2010

PAUL ATKINSON: Drowned in Forty Foot Drain

PAUL ATKINSON: Drowned in Forty Foot Drain

A CORONER recorded an open verdict into the death of Ely man Paul Atkinson who died when his car plunged into the river next to a notorious fen road. Mr Atkinson, 43, of Sycamore Lane, drowned when his car went into the Forty Foot Drain last December but

A CORONER recorded an open verdict into the death of Ely man Paul Atkinson who died when his car plunged into the river next to a notorious fen road.

Mr Atkinson, 43, of Sycamore Lane, drowned when his car went into the Forty Foot Drain last December but there was no evidence that he had been speeding, an inquest heard.

A Christmas card addressed to 'everyone' with the wording 'I'm so sorry, all my love Paul', was found in the car.

Crash investigators found no mechanical defects with the car and concluded that it had not been travelling at high speeds.

They found no evidence of major damage to the car and the airbag had not inflated.

But the inquest at Wisbech Coroner's Court on Monday also heard that there had not been any evidence that Mr Atkinson was suffering from illness or had any mental health issues.

His Renault Laguna car was pulled out of the Forty Foot Drain near Chatteris on Boxing Day last year after it was spotted by a lorry driver.

Mr Atkinson, a data architect at Cambridge University Press, was last seen by his family on December 9 and was last seen at work on December 13 last year when he appeared fine, the inquest heard.

Two days later, colleagues, who said he was a reserved, quiet, intelligent man, reported that he had not turned up for work.

Mr Atkinson's father, Peter, said in a statement that his son was very level-headed and that he had never known him to be depressed or have any financial worries. He said he had a keen interest in wildlife and was a member of a number of bird watching clubs.

Pc Stephen Edwards, told the inquest, that they could not find the point where the car entered the water, but he said: "It entered at low speed. There was no evidence that speed played a part in this."

He said the driver was still wearing his seat belt and the head lights and the engine were switched off. He said there was no evidence to show the driver had made any attempts to escape.

A post mortem concluded Mr Atkinson had died from drowning and there was evidence that his body had been submerged in water for a long time.

Toxicology results found there were no traces of drugs and alcohol in his system.

Coroner William Morris said there was not enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this had been a suicide or that it was an accidental death.

He recorded an open verdict and said the car had entered the water sometime between December 13 and December 26 last year.

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