Verdict on doctor's death

IPSWICH Hospital consultant Dr Christopher Pearce died from hypothermia after a drinking binge and taking near fatal levels of painkillers, an inquest heard today.

IPSWICH Hospital consultant Dr Christopher Pearce died from hypothermia after a drinking binge and taking near fatal levels of painkillers, an inquest heard today.

The highly regarded Oxford-educated pathologist was found dead in Holywells Park on December 30 last year.

The discovery of the 53-year-old's body sparked a murder investigation until police decided that no other party was involved.

Detective Sergeant Duncan Sheppard, who led the investigation, told how Dr Pearce's body had been found with puncture wounds to the neck inflicted by a blade from a penknife the doctor had on a chain around his neck.

Dr Pearce, a consultant clinical biochemist, had been found just after 8am lying by the pond in Holywells Park by a dog walker.

Ds Sheppard told Greater Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean that Dr Pearce had gone missing from his home in Culpho, near Woodbridge, that weekend. He said witnesses had become concerned about a car which turned out to be Dr Pearce's parked outside the Nacton Road entrance in Holywells Park all day on the Sunday.

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Ds Sheppard said when he saw Dr Pearce's body, "He was fully clothed but they were extremely dirty. Around his neck was a chain with a penknife and the blade was out."

Nearby, under a children's climbing frame, police found Dr Pearce's shoe, glasses, an empty whisky bottle and a green mug.

Home Office pathologist Dr Michael Heath told how Dr Pearce had consumed a huge amount of alcohol as well as near fatal levels of codeine and paracetamol. Although he could not determine the time of death he said Dr Pearce had survived for some hours before the alcohol and drug concoction had caused the hypothermia which led to his death. He also pointed out that Dr Pearce had handcuff marks around his wrists.

Dr Pearce had been arrested by Ipswich police for drink driving on the day he disappeared.

Dr Dean had to record an open verdict as there was nothing to show Dr Pearce had intended to take his own life.

His wife Christine said in a statement that Dr Pearce had been having some problems personally but she would never have considered he would have taken his own life.

She said of her husband, "He was a man who had very high and exacting standards in all aspects of his life. He was a highly intelligent and active man. Those around him at home and at work held him in very high regard."

But behind his confident exterior Mrs Pearce said her husband could often feel insecure at times. She said he suffered from a spinal stenosis which caused numbness in his back and legs. An operation had not worked and although he was given painkillers he never took them because it was numbness rather than pain. She knew he was concerned for his future health. He was also upset over the loss of his mother.

She said, "In 2002 his mother died. He was very close to her and took her death very hard. He thought as a doctor in the family he should have been able to do more."

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