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Inquest hears how missing man, 25, died of hypothermia

Anthony McGovern (left) and Brett Freshney
Anthony McGovern (left) and Brett Freshney

A 25-year-old man whose body was found three days after going missing after a night out with friends died of hypothermia.

Anthony McGovern, of Lover’s Lane, Newark, had watched football and played pool in a pub with his friends on January 11.

After leaving the pub he went home but could not get into his mother’s flat, an inquest into his death was told.

Anthony’s friend, Brett Freshney, who had been with him on the night out, reported him missing to the police the following day.

His body was found three days later in an area of wasteland at the foot of a bridge over the River Trent.

Coroner Miss Mairin Casey said Anthony died of hypothermia and, on the balance of probabilities, did not intend to take his own life.

She heard that Anthony would have been suffering from hypothermia before he went to the foot of the bridge and so did not have the capacity to make such a decision.

'He was already confused before he came down from the bridge'

Pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton, who carried out the post-mortem examination, said shortly before Anthony died he showed behaviour consistent with Hide And Die Syndrome, a symptom of the late stages of fatal hypothermia, where someone will seek the lowest ground possible.

He said: “The evidence suggests that, on the balance of probabilities, he was already confused before he came down from the bridge and therefore it would be somewhat dangerous to assume a deliberate action on his part.”

He said it was not scientifically possible to accurately determine when Anthony might have died.

Dr Hamilton said hypothermia was not a painful or unpleasant way to die and Anthony would have slowly lost consciousness before slipping away.

Pc Lee Bowditch said the search for Anthony had included his home, outbuildings and the area around the Millennium Bridge, which was one of his favourite spots.

Sergeant David Langton, who was also involved in the search, said: “We did our best to find him as quickly as we could and as soon as we were notified.”

Police initially graded his disappearance as medium risk and after two days upgraded it to high risk.

Anthony’s mother, Tracey Bastable, said in a statement that Anthony had been staying with her.

She said he did not have a key to the flat and would often get buzzed into the building by another family.

Tracey said if Anthony didn’t sleep in her flat he would return in the morning to change and take his medicine.

She said when he didn’t turn up she was concerned because he hadn’t taken his medication.

In a statement Brett Freshney described how Anthony had sent him messages indicating he wanted to end his own life.

'No evidence I can rely on that Anthony took his own life'

Anthony had a history of mental health problems, the inquest heard, and had been offered the services of the Nottinghamshire Personality Disorder and Development Network.

However, he missed a number of appointments.

Lucy Gutheridge, of the network, said Anthony came for an unscheduled appointment on the day he was last seen.

She said he was calm and co-operative and did not appear to be in crisis.

Delivering a narrative verdict Miss Casey said: “I find that Anthony was in a state of confusion before he fell or jumped from the bridge.

“There is no evidence here that I can rely on that Anthony took his own life.”

She said Anthony was suffering from exposure to the elements before he came off the bridge and on the balance of probabilities he would not have had the capacity to decide he wanted to kill himself.

“Anthony McGovern was an honourable man who had struggled with mental health issues and, at various times, had struggled with self-harm and, at various times, suggested he would jump off a bridge,” she said.

“He is also someone who drank alcohol and would make such comments after taking alcohol.”

Miss Casey did not criticise the mental health services offered to Anthony.

“He went for an unscheduled appointment and there was nothing to suggest he was confused or agitated or anything that should require a referral to other services,” she said.

“He made it clear to them that he wanted to change aspects of his life.”

Miss Casey said she was satisfied with the police response to his disappearance and that upgrading it to high risk earlier on would have made little difference.

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