Friends found boater’s body in canal near Bradford on Avon

A DRUNKEN canal boater drowned after hitting his head and falling into the Kennet & Avon near Winsley Hill at Limpley Stoke, an inquest was told.

Stephen Charles Heffernan, 48, had two lacerations behind his right ear and the base of his head consistent with hitting his head on the stone embankment of the canal.

The inquest in Salisbury was told that he was last seen on a Monday in November 2018 by two friends, Ding Dong Veg and Daisy Lovett, when they took the battery from his canal boat Tyler to be charged in Bath.

Miss Lovatt found his body fully submerged in the water between the boat and the embankment when she went to check on him on Thursday, November 15 after seeing there were no lights on in his boat.

The Wiltshire & Swindon Assistant Coroner Ian Singleton was told that Mr Heffernan was an alcoholic who drank between four and six litres of strong cider daily.

He had also taken cocaine before to his death.

Mr Heffernan had worked as a plasterer but associated with people who, like himself, often drank alcohol to excess and was living on benefits before he died.

His body was found submerged in the water, with his red rucksack covering his face. Inside the bag police found money and a large bottle of cider.

Police said there was a two-three feet drop from the canal bank and evidence showed he had not tried to climb out after his fall.

The inquest on Thursday (jun 20) was told Mr Heffernan had consulted his GP in Bradford on Avon about his excess drinking, low mood, anxiety problems and issues with obtaining government benefits during the three years leading up to his death.

Pathologist Matthew Flynn said he had found a considerable amount of alcohol in Mr Heffernan’s urine, consistent with him being a heavy drinker. There were also traces of cocaine and a prescription medication, Sertraline, which he used to manage his anxiety.

Mr Singleton returned a verdict of accidental death, saying it was evident that Mr Heffernan had consumed a “significant amount” of alcohol but that the pathologist had not been able to determine the exact sequence of events which led to his death.

Mr Singleton recorded the cause of Mr Heffernan’s death as submersion, excess alcohol and the use of cocaine and medication.

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