Questions remain over Wigan man's death

A coroner has told a Wigan family that they may never know why their relative drowned in a pond just yards away from his home.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 10:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 11:28 am
John Peter Heyes

John Peter Heyes was found in a swampy area in Marsh Green on November 4 2018. The 35-year-old had not been seen since October 22, and a police investigation into his disappearance was launched three days later.

A post-mortem found he had died of drowning, hypothermia and amphetamine toxicity.

But an inquest at Bolton Coroners Court was unable to answer his family’s most pressing questions, such as how and why he came to be in the woodlands in the first place.

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Mr Heyes, known to his family and friends as Johnny, was described as “a wonderful person” who was “loved by many” and would be “greatly missed.”

He was living alone in a bungalow in Marsh Green at the time of his disappearance.

Raised in Beech Hill, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child and began suffering seizures when going through puberty. He would suffer fits daily for the rest of life, assistant coroner Rachel Galloway heard.

He had a passion for taking apart bicycles and rebuilding them, and enjoyed walking, the inquest was told, and he would see his mum Pauline every day.

But when she had not heard from him on October 23, she visited his bungalow only to discover he wasn’t home.

He was reported missing to Greater Manchester Police, who categorised him as a “medium risk” missing person, meaning they did not believe he was in immediate danger.

Searches were conducted by the police and concerned relatives, but it was not until almost a fortnight later that Mr Heyes’ body was found by a family friend, in a marshy wooded area to the rear of his bungalow between Marsh Green and Martland Mill.

Experts were unable to determine precisely how long he had been in the water before he was found, but it was thought he had died on or close to the day he went missing.

Toxicology tests found low concentrations of cannabis, amphetamines and anti-epilepsy medication, which Ms Galloway said may have combined to confuse Mr Heyes and make it difficult for him to get out of the boggy area.

She recorded an open conclusion, saying that Mr Heyes’ reasons for entering the water “were unclear.”

She said: “In terms of how he got there and why, it is not possible for me to say.

“There is no evidence to suggest that there were other people there, but it cannot be entirely ruled out.”

GMP referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Complaints, to determine if the force had failed in its duty to find Mr Heyes, but the IOPC found no wrongdoing.