Hartlepool man found dead in river by fishermen after drink drive arrest

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A PROJECT manager from Hartlepool was found dead in a river by two fishermen just days after being arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

John Wesley Craig was discovered in the River Tyne near South Shields with severe internal injuries, a shallow non-fatal stab wound to his chest and a number of bruises to his body on Sunday, May 19.

A coroner delivered an open verdict after hearing evidence, and stressed it would be wrong for him to suggest Mr Craig had intended to take his own life.

It was on the Thursday or Friday prior to his discovery that Mr Craig had been in Cumbria where he was arrested on suspicion of driving with excess alcohol and had been taken to a hospital there by police after taking a suspected overdose of paracetamol.

After being assessed both physically and mentally he was discharged from the hospital, and because his car was with the police, it was agreed he would get back to his “supportive family” in Hartlepool on the train.

A police officer dropped Mr Craig off at Oxenholme Railway Station, in the Lake District, on the Saturday afternoon, with the intention of him making it to Newcastle to board another train home.

But married Mr Craig, 37, from Chaffinch Close, off Throston Grange Lane, never made it home and the last potential sighting of him was at Newcastle Central Station where a man who looked like him was spotted on poor quality CCTV footage.

It was just before 3pm on the Sunday when his body was discovered in the water.

After hearing evidence from two police officers, a nurse, and a forensic pathologist, South Tyneside and Gateshead coroner Terence Carney said he had no choice but to record an open verdict, with the cause of Mr Craig’s death being of multiple injuries.

He said: “Has this man ultimately committed suicide? I cannot avoid discussing that in these circumstances.

“I have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a person has a definite intention to kill themselves.

“Let me say this to the family straight away. It is not a verdict I can return in this case. I have no idea what this man did after alighting from a train in Newcastle on that afternoon. I don’t know where he went and I don’t know how he came to enter the river.

“I can’t ignore what took him to hospital, but I can’t speculate that this was something similar. I don’t know how he sustained the injuries he sustained.

“We can speculate that he has fallen from a height, whether that be a bridge or something else, or whether this man was on some vantage point and slipped for example and he’s fallen for a distance and landed on a hard surface.

“It’s perfectly possible that this man has slipped and he’s fallen, and I stress that to those who may speculate otherwise.”

He added: “It would be inappropriate for me to rule that this is anything approaching suicide.

“I’m saying that quite firmly, and I’m not just saying it for the comfort of the family, because it’s probably going to give the family even greater grief that we don’t know.”

Forensic pathologist Dr Peter Cooper said the stab wound to Mr Craig’s chest - which could have been self-inflicted, caused by a third party, or been accidental - did not contribute to his death.

Dr Cooper said the internal injuries were consistent with falling from a height onto a hard surface, and speculated that Mr Craig could have fallen onto the mud beside the river and then moved into the water by the tide.