Mystery of man found dead in water two inches deep

Date: Thursday 18th September 2008

MYSTERY surrounds the death of a man found in the river at Eamont Bridge, near Penrith, following a drugs overdose and an argument with his gay lover, an inquest heard.

Andrew John Carter, aged 36, of Galloway Close, Maryport, was found dead in the River Eamont at Southwaite Green Mill on 22nd August, 2006.

An inquest into his death was held by coroner Ian Smith at Penrith Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday. A post mortem showed no injuries but Mr. Carter had up to five times the normal level of a prescribed painkiller in his system along with high levels of an epilepsy drug and anti-depression drug which had led to a “huge overdose”.

Two of these drugs had been prescribed to Mr. Carter, who had hepatitis, by his local doctor and the third, his friends believed, had come from a doctor in Newcastle with whom he had a good relationship.

Mr. Carter’s body was found near the caravan home of his partner, Anthony Thompson. Mr. Thompson said he had known Mr. Carter intimately for four to five months. He knew Mr. Carter had relationships with other people and said that was accepted.

On the evening prior to his death Mr. Carter had been at his home in Maryport but was collected by Mr. Thompson following a phone call and taken back to his caravan at Southwaite Green Mill. Mr. Thompson said Mr. Carter was very drunk and had been sick.

There was some conflict during the hearing over the time Mr. Carter had returned to Southwaite Green Mill. Mr. Thompson claimed they were back by 10pm, while Mr. Carter’s father, John, of Maryport, said his wife had spoken to their son on his home phone in Maryport at 10-40pm.

However, police investigated this difference and records from Mrs. Carter’s mobile phone showed the call was made shortly after 6pm, although Mr. Carter continued to deny this.

Evidence was also given by Neil Martin, of West Sussex, who said he had known Andrew Carter for around three months after meeting him in an Internet chatroom and had met him in person one weekend.

He said he had also phoned Mr. Carter at his Maryport home about 11pm on the evening prior to his death. However, the phone had been answered by a man he believed was Mr. Thompson who had said Mr. Carter was unavailable to talk.

Police records again showed that Mr. Martin had actually made the call at around 6-30pm and Mr. Martin said he did not dispute this. The inquest heard that following Mr. Carter and Mr. Thompson’s arrival at Southwaite Green Mill, their next door neighbour, Jack Hancock, heard a “violent argument” sometime after midnight which suddenly stopped.

The coroner said that Mr. Carter had hours later been found dead in the river and that was “worrying”.

In his evidence Mr. Hancock, of Bishop Auckland, said a regular stream of men visited the caravan, which concerned him. A number of previous incidents had “set alarm bells ringing”.

However, Mr. Thompson stated the row was about Mr. Carter being sick in the sink and it had not been a violent argument. Mr. Carter had taken more of his medication each time he was sick and they had later gone to bed at around 2am.

Mr. Thompson said he was woken at about 6am by the loud television. Mr. Carter was missing and the caravan door was open. He knew Mr. Carter was wearing only a dressing gown because he had left his clothes.

After a search of the nearby area, Mr. Thompson found his partner lying face down in water about two inches deep and called the emergency services.

The coroner, Mr. Smith, said: “There are many different ways Andrew Carter could have gone into the river. He could have deliberately taken these drugs for self-harm, either as a call for attention or to kill himself.

“I do not think there is any evidence of that. I do not believe Mr. Carter killed himself deliberately. Something extremely sinister could have happened in theory or it could be a tragic accident. It is a mystery and sadly will remain a mystery.”

Mr. Smith recorded an open verdict because he did not know exactly how Mr. Carter died or how he came to be in the river. It could have been an oversight or negligence which led to him taking too many drugs.

During the hearing, Mr. Carter’s father had expressed concerns about how his son would have been able to get to the river when he was so intoxicated. A doctor had said he would have been left virtually immobile.

However, the hearing was told there is a small “window” before drugs are fully absorbed into the system, leaving enough time for Mr. Carter to have walked the short distance.

Mr. Carter said he continued to have reservations about his son’s death.