Mystery death of man found floating in dock

Preston Docks
Preston Docks
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A man found floating face down in Preston Docks had drug problems and financial worries, an inquest heard.

But Coroner Simon Jones ruled there was no evidence 51-year-old Richard Porter had taken his own life on a bitterly cold January morning.

The upholsterer, who was on long-term sick leave from his job at Tetrad, left no note and, despite having talked about suicide in the past, had seemed positive about the future when he was assessed by a mental health nurse 10 days before his death. The hearing was told that Mr Porter, of St Mark’s Road, Preston, was spotted in the water at breakfast-time on January 24. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Det Insp Keith Lee said there were no signs of violence to suggest anyone else had been involved. Despite a trawl of CCTV cameras in the vicinity there was no trace of him or how he came to be in the water.

Consultant pathologist Dr Mark Pitt, who carried out a post mortem examination, said death had been due to drowning and he could find no suspicious marks. Toxicology tests showed traces of five different types of pain killers and low level “illicit” heroin. But it was unlikely the drugs would have caused him to be disorientated.

Close friend Loretta Finch, of Clyde Street, Ashton, told the inquest that when she first met Mr Porter he “sort of had two lives.”

She went on: “Monday to Friday when he was working he would go out with his friends and just have an odd drink in the pub. But he would lock off at the weekend and take heroin. But then things started going really badly for him. He got in a mess financially, bills were piling up on the sofa, things just got on top of him. He was getting really depressed and low, it was horrible to see. Things spiralled with the drugs.

“About a month before his death he talked about ending his life. But a couple of weeks later he came to a bit.”

Coroner Jones said there were two possible causes - one that he had entered the water intending to kill himself and the other that he had slipped and fallen in. But there was no absolute evidence either way.