Darley Dale man drowned in River Derwent

An elderly man was carrying a picture of himself and his late wife when he drowned in the River Derwent.

While he had never explicitly said he wanted to kill himself, family and close friends of Thomas Smedley believed he had committed suicide.

Mr Smedley, of Dungreave Avenue, Darley Dale, was found by the ‘Nanny Goats’ crossing near his home on April 24 this year.

North East Derbyshire Coroners’ Court heard how the 78–year–old had been born in Darley Dale and worked at Firth Rixson prior to retiring.

His wife, Shirley, passed away as a result of bone cancer in 2004, and those close to Mr Smedley believed he had managed the loss very well.

Neighbour Joan Blackham said: “He spent all his time cleaning and gardening.

“He’d make a cooked meal every day.

“Despite his age, Thomas was extremely active.”

In March this year however, a fall in his bedroom left Mr Smedley having to get stitches in his leg.

This left him immobile and unable to go out in the garden.

On April 23, Mrs Blackham visited Mr Smedley and found him in low spirits.

“I said to Thomas ‘what’s the matter?’” she recalled.

“He said, looking through his kitchen window, ‘I can’t do anything. I can’t get into my garden. I know how deep the water is at Nanny Goats.’

“I said to Thomas ‘don’t talk like this.’”

The following day, Mr Smedley was missing from his home.

His bed had been slept in, however it had not been made, which was unusual for him.

The door to Mr Smedley’s house was found to be locked and the key had been pushed through the letterbox.

The police were called and officers found his body in the river.

He had no personal items on him except some change and a picture of himself and his wife.

His son, Paul Smedley, said: “There was no indication that he was feeling as depressed as he was.

“He was even looking forward to when his leg was feeling better and he could get in the garden.”

Nigel Anderson, deputy coroner for North Derbyshire, said there was insufficient evidence for him to determine whether Mr Smedley’s death was suicide or an accident. He returned an open verdict.