Man’s river death was tragic accident

John Shailes

John Shailes

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @BerenCross

BRICKLAYER John Shailes drowned in the River Ray last summer in what has been revealed as a tragic accident.

Clare Balysz, the assistant coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, recorded a verdict of accidental death at the hearing in Salisbury.

The 27-year-old had been drinking at The Tawny Owl pub, in Taw Hill, on the evening of July 12 last year. He and friend Jordan White had shared four pints of lager at the pub before buying four cans more at a supermarket and walking to Mouldon Hill Country Park, where they took the tranquiliser ketamine.

John took two grams of the drug before going for a swim in the river shortly before 8pm, while Jordan passed out on the bank.

He said when he woke up John was nowhere to be seen. After ringing around his friends and searching the area he reported his friend missing.

John’s body was found by search teams at 2.40pm the following day. There was no evidence of any suspicious circumstances – ruling it an accident.

The pathologist concluded the cause of death was unnatural drowning, with ketamine toxicity a contributing factor.

Ms Balysz said: “It wasn’t the ketamine which caused him to die. The pathologist said the amount found in his blood was not high enough.

“It may have affected how he was feeling in his mind, how he could control his body, which may have increased the risk of accidents.”

John was known to his girlfriend, Natasha Tarrant, as a drug user, although she said he wanted to start a family with her and reduce his drug use.

In her statement, she said: “I moved in at the beginning of June 2013 with my three-year-old son.

“John took him on as his own right from the start. He showed me what love was. He would always try to cheer me up when I was low.

“He took ketamine every couple of days, but he wanted a family and he cut his usage to once a week.

“He didn't have a reaction to withdrawing from it. He wasn’t addicted.”

The inquest heard there was no reason for John to have taken his own life.

The only short-term concern he had was for the home he shared with his girlfriend and her son, which had been raided by police the week before his death.

The reason for the raid was not made clear, but Jordan said John was worried that his father, Michael, would discover what had happened.

Michael said: “John lived life to the full, but I was worried about his drinking.”

In his statement at the inquest Michael also described the day the police notified him of the body they had found.

He said: “I’m not sure why, but I knew I was not going to see him again.

“In a way, it was always going to end that way. It was like a release, I was pleased they had found him so quickly.”

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