Sidmouth man died at home of natural causes, inquest hears

The inquest is due to be held at County Hall. Picture: Terry Ife

The inquest is due to be held at County Hall. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A retiree who had suffered mental health issues but was eagerly planning for the future died at his Sidmouth home of natural causes, an inquest heard.

Philip Field’s body was not found until March 23 last year – some six months after his death – after a neighbour told a PCSO that she had not seen him for some time.

He had cancelled a holiday to Kos he was due to take in September 2016 and the travel agents voiced concerns to police the following month but officers found nothing untoward at his Hawthorn Drive address.

As his body had started to decompose, the post-mortem could not establish a medical cause of death but coroner John Tomalin told an inquest at County Hall on Thursday that Mr Field presumably died around this time, aged 65.

The inquest heard that Mr Field had travelled extensively but a stomach infection had marred a recent trip, and that was why he cancelled his holiday to Kos.

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Mr Tomalin read evidence from Mr Field’s GP and psychiatrist that he had suffered from depression and delusions, and in 2010 had jumped through a ground-floor window at home in an attempt on his life.

But the doctors said he had responded well to treatment and in the months before his death decided he no longer needed treatment.

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Mr Tomalin said: “Mr Field was found deceased at home on March 23, 2017. He died some time before that particular date.

“He had suffered delusions connected to his faith. He felt damned. He thought he was in some form of spiritual bondage.

“In 2016 he was feeling much happier. He had a new partner, was exercising more and was involved in overseas projects.

“He had been abroad over winter in 2015 and had more travel plans in 2016 to Kos, Malta and Mexico, including conservation work. He was very future-orientated.

“There were no concerns about his mental health.”

A letter from Mr Field’s neighbour, Jennifer Webb, said she was concerned for his welfare. She said she had last seen him in September 2016 and had heard he had depression so in March 2017 contacted PCSO Jay Bowden.

DC Katie Rich visited the address and found post dating back to October 2016 and items such as his will on the table. The fridge was also empty, which Mr Tomalin concluded was because Mr Field was preparing to go on holiday.

DC Rich found Mr Field wrapped in a duvet and said it looked like he had fallen off the bed. Mr Tomalin said toilet rolls found nearby pointed to his illness.

In a written statement, Anthony Field said his younger brother had moved to Devon in his twenties, lived a frugal existence and was difficult to contact. They had been speaking to one another on a weekly basis and Philip said he would get in touch after he returned from his holiday but never did.

The inquest heard that Mr Field booked all of his trips through Hays Travel. Staff said he would have been reluctant to cancel his trip to Kos but he had had ongoing stomach problems. After becoming concerned for his welfare when he did not claim a refund, they contacted the police, late in September 2016. The inquest heard officers attended but found nothing untoward and there was no cause for concern at that time.

Mr Tomalin said: “I am aware Mr Field had suffered from depression and various psychological issues but don’t think these were a factor in his death. He had plans for his life and was planning various trips abroad.

“He was feeling unwell and the circumstances indicate he was still feeling unwell. He hadn’t recovered from the ailment he had contracted when he was abroad.”

Mr Tomalin concluded that Mr Field died from natural causes.

Following the inquest, Mr Field’s sister, Susan Williams said: “Thank goodness for the neighbours and for everyone who mentioned it. They looked after him.

“Philip enjoyed life to the best. I was the last to see him and he looked well to me – I thought he was going to outlive us all.

“He had no mental issues. It looked like he had come out of the other end.”

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