Chesterfield businessman 'may have been pushed to his death'

Chesterfield coroners' court, where the inquest was heard.
Chesterfield coroners' court, where the inquest was heard.
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Another individual may have been involved in the death of a much-loved businessman, it has emerged.

Dad-of-two Russell Cowan, 44, died of 'catastrophic' head injuries after a 'precipitous descent from height' in the Italian town of Menaggio last summer, an inquest heard today.

Mr Cowan, a decorated RAF veteran who lived on Manor Road, Brimington, may have been pushed, a Home Office pathologist told Chesterfield coroners' court.

At the end of the hearing, coroner James Newman said 'there are still countless unanswered questions' and promised to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, consular officials and Derbyshire Constabulary over 'concerns' surrounding the circumstances of Mr Cowan's death.

The court heard Mr Cowan and a group of friends arrived in Menaggio, where they were taking part in a charity car rally, on the evening of June 4 and went out to socialise in the area. Post-mortem tests did not show excessively high levels of alcohol in Mr Cowan's blood.

Between 1am and 1.30am on June 5, Mr Cowan decided to walk back to his hotel.

Mr Newman read out a statement by security guard Alberto Mazzoleni who stated he was driving at 3.45am when he saw an individual falling over a fence of a villa close to Mr Cowan's hotel and called police.

However, Mr Newman said he 'found it difficult' to understand how Mr Mazzoleni could have seen a person falling while driving in the dark.

"I've written to Mr Mazzoleni to request assistance with inconsistencies in his statement but I've not heard anything back," he added.

"What he has said in his statement should not be taken as gospel truth."

Dr Stuart Hamilton, a Home Office forensic pathologist, told the inquest: "I'm of the view that Mr Cowan's injuries can be explained by a fall forwards, a precipitous descent from height.

"It's possible he could have been pushed but I'm not sufficiently certain of this."

Coroner James Newman recorded an open conclusion.

He told Mr Cowan's family who were in the court: "You have my deepest condolences.

"Mr Cowan passed away in such tragic circumstances a long way away from home.

"There are still countless unanswered questions.

"We can't exclude another person's involvement in his death.

"I will write to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and consular staff and contact Derbyshire Constabulary to highlight inconsistencies and concerns."

Mr Cowan, who was a director for a number of companies, was born in Hong Kong and lived locally all his life.

He joined the RAF aged 19, served his country for eight years and was awarded a medal for his efforts during the Balkan war.

Following Mr Cowan's death, his wife, Trudy Cowan, described him as 'loving, kind and honourable'.