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Inquest held into death of 93-year-old Bertram Woodberry who was found in River Brett in Hadleigh

The scene by the River Brett in Hadleigh. Image courtesy of Rachael Williams

The scene by the River Brett in Hadleigh. Image courtesy of Rachael Williams


A 93-year-old Hadleigh man who was found in the river Brett in April killed himself, a coroner has ruled.

Bertram Woodberry, a retired bus driver and cancer survivor, loved going for long walks in Hadleigh – but after breaking his leg in January became frustrated with his declining mobility.

He died as a result of drowning at Ipswich Hospital after being found with his zimmer frame in the river on April 23, an inquest into his death heard yesterday.

Assistant Suffolk coroner Kevin McCarthy told the hearing how Mr Woodberry went missing from his bungalow at around 7am that day – but was seen a short while later by resident Valerie Seggar.

In her witness statement, which was read to the court, Ms Seggar described seeing Mr Woodberry standing by the river with his zimmer frame about 50 yards away from her.

He disappeared from view and appeared to throw his frame into the river.

After fearing he could be in there too Ms Seggar called the emergency services – who managed to resuscitate him before taking him to Ipswich Hospital.

Mr Woodberry died shortly after arriving at the hospital, with a pathologist recording the medical cause of death as drowning, the inquest heard.

Toxicology tests found no trace of alcohol or drug use.

The 93-year-old had visited his GP, Dr Elizabeth Cope from Hadleigh Boxford Group Practice a few days earlier – where he expressed his frustration at his lack of mobility, and his inability to recover from the broken leg.

He did not appear to be clinically depressed, she said in a statement read to the hearing.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr McCarthy said he believed Mr Woodberry knew his actions would have certain consequences.

He said: “I have no doubt that he [Mr Woodberry] knew exactly what he meant to do when he walked the banks of the river Brett and he threw into the river his means of stability and balance.”

The coroner expressed his deepest sympathies to Mr Woodberry’s family.

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