River death search for mystery man

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AN INQUEST into the death of a man found drowned in a river has been halted pending further police enquiries.

The body of Chesterfield epilepsy sufferer Neil Ashmore, 46, was found in the River Rother, off Spital Lane, last December 11 by dog walker Agnes Stepaniuk.

A Chesterfield inquest heard he was staying at Chesterfield Lodge, Derby Road, and was last seen the night before when he was briefly visited by a man.

“If he was with him (Mr Ashmore) the night before he died we ought to hear from him, to see if he can throw some light on his movements,” said deputy North Derbyshire coroner Nigel Anderson when adjourning the inquest.

Chesterfield Lodge owner Lewis Williams said Mr Ashmore told him he was staying out the night he died and left.

“That was the last time Neil was seen alive. The other person hasn’t been traced,” said Mr Anderson.

Mr Williams said Mr Ashmore had “seemed spaced-out” in the period before his death, as if under the influence of his medication “or something else”.

The inquest heard he had also told his GP four days that he was struggling to cope in the community four days before he died.

A letter found by police in his bedroom – written to Mr Ashmore by a male friend – was shown to his father, Richard, and sister, Lisa Mercer.

Lisa said a man told her at the funeral that he saw her brother on the night before he was found dead.

She said she left a phone message for police about it but heard nothing further.

Coroner Mr Anderson adjourned the inquest while police contacted the man who signed the letter to Mr Ashmore.

He said there was insufficient evidence of suicide, police had found no suspicious circumstances and Mr Ashmore may have fallen into the river accidentally.

PC Les Hunter said the deceased’s legs were trapped below a submerged pipe and handmarks on a girder suggested he had tried to grab it to stop himself being dragged along.

“The water was very cold and the current was really fast. It’s possible that his legs became trapped and he couldn’t get himself back up,” said Pc Hunter.

Pathologist Dr Donesh Taraaporewalla gave the cause of death as drowning.