Ipswich: Man whose remains were discovered after 25 years pictured for the first time

A man whose remains were discovered 25 years after he vanished was found with a shotgun and a spent cartridge, an inquest has heard.

Walter French, pictured for the first time today, was 65 when he was reported missing in July 1986.

The self-employed builder, who suffered from depression, disappeared from his bungalow in Kensington Road, leaving his wife and three children a note and sparking a search by police, relatives and friends.

But the riddle of what happened to Mr French remained a mystery – until his skeletal remains were discovered by a group of workmen building luxury homes in nearby Valley Road, close to his former home. The discovery was made on October 3 last year when a digger driver and three of his colleagues found clothing, shoes and human bones in old concrete footings.

At an inquest into his death, held at Ip-City Centre in Bath Street yesterday, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded an open verdict, because of questions which were “unanswered and unanswerable”.

The inquest heard how Mr French’s remains were found alongside a shotgun and a spent cartridge.

But he had no injuries which confirmed he had been shot and the coroner said it was impossible to say exactly how he died, with pathologists claiming it was not possible to exclude a conclusion of natural causes.

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Dr Peter Dean, coroner for Greater Suffolk, said a post-mortem examination was unable to ascertain a cause of death. But the report said there were no signs of gunshot wounds causing fractures to his bones.

It also emerged Mr French, who met his wife while serving in the Army in Italy, had left a note for his family which read: “All my affairs are in order. Take care and stay close. Love Nige (Mr French’s nickname).”

Mr French’s identity was confirmed using DNA samples from his two daughters, Rosemary and Christine, as gum disease meant he wore dentures and had no original teeth so dental records could not be used.

The inquest heard that Mr French had also “avoided” going to see medical professionals, despite suffering from a stomach ulcer and gallstones. His health left Mr French feeling depressed and on the day he went missing, his family said he didn’t look well.

Dr Dean added: “We can’t rule out a natural event. A verdict of suicide must be proven beyond reasonable doubt and we still have the unanswerable question of what the cause of death was.

“A suicide verdict is not to be presumed, so the only verdict to return is an open verdict.”

n Send us your tributes to Walter French. Write to Your Letters, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to starletters@archant.co.uk

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