RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (Without Inquest)

Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11

I, Timothy Hill, Coroner, having investigated the death of the deceased.

WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST

These findings have been partially de-identified in relation to the name of the deceased by direction of the Coroner pursuant to S.57(1)(c) of Coroners Act 1995

I have decided not to hold an inquest into the death because the investigation into the death has sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, the time, place, the probable cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning the death and the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.

Having conducted an investigation I do not consider that the holding of an inquest would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the enquiries conducted.

Find That:

(a)  The deceased died in March 2012 in the Wynyard, Tasmania.

(b)  The deceased was born at Wynyard, Tasmania

(c)  At the time of his death the deceased was a married man and was a pharmacist.

(d)  I find that the deceased died as a result of drowning.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death: 

The deceased was married to his wife in 1968.  The couple resided in Queensland prior to moving to Tasmania in 1969.  They had two children who are both now adults.   The deceased and his wife had a very close relationship with both their children. 

The deceased was a pharmacist who owned and managed a pharmacy.  His daughter was also a partner in this business.   The deceased and his wife  had a happy relationship without any major disagreements.  The couple did a considerable amount of travelling throughout their lives. 

The deceased had a number of health problems though his life.  This included sleep apnoea.  His wife states that her husband began to snore about 2 or 3 years prior to his death.  The deceased would  often stop breathing on occasions during the night, and as a result he attended a sleep apnoea clinic in Devonport where he underwent a sleep test.  The deceased was then diagnosed with sleep apnoea and required a CPAP machine to assist him sleeping at night.    Approximately 6 months prior to his death the couple began sleeping in separate bedrooms as his snoring was stopping his wife from sleeping.    

The deceased's wife stated that over the past few years she had noticed at times when she would wake up that there were lights on that she had turned off prior to going to bed or doors partially opened that she had locked prior to going to bed.    Although the deceased never spoke to his wife about it, she believed that her husband was sleep walking. 

On 7 March 2012 the deceased attended the Wynyard Medical Centre consulting Dr. Roland ARK after experiencing tingling down his left arm and fingers.  The deceased reported to Dr ARK that he had been experiencing these pains since the previous weekend.  He also reported that he had not been sleeping due to stress regarding a strained relationship with some tenants who were leasing a building from him.    Dr ARK reports that at the time the deceased appeared anxious.    Urgent blood tests and an ECG were carried out upon the deceased.    The results of those tests revealed no ischaemic changes and no signs of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).  A follow up appointment was made with  Dr ARK for the following day.

Later that evening the deceased and his wife went to their beds.  Around midnight the deceased wife was awoken by a thump noise.  She went to check on the deceased and found him standing in front of his chest of drawers,  When she asked him what he was doing, he replied “ tidying up, sorting out”, although he was not really doing anything but standing there.   His wife told him that it was time for him to go back to bed and he said “yes”.  The deceased wife then kissed her husband good night and went back to her bed. 

On the morning of 8 March 2012 the deceased wife woke around 8am.  After showering she went to check on her husband and noticed that he was not in his bed.  A search of the house found that the deceased was not present however the bottom door was unlocked indicating that he may have gone out that door.    The deceased wife immediately notified her daughter of the situation as this was unusual.    When they were unable to locate the deceased, police were notified.

Members of Tasmania Police uniform and Search and Rescue attended the area and a coordinated search  or the area was commenced.  At approximately 10:55am Constable Dean Wotherspoon, located the body of the deceased in the Inglis River.  As the river was moving, Constable Wootherspoon entered the river and retrieved the deceased who was deceased at the time.    Further searching of the area was unable to identify any signs of how or where Mr Dixon may have entered the water. 

A post mortem carried out by pathologist Dr Terrence Brain found the cause of death to be consistent with drowning.  Toxicology did not reveal any substance that would have contributed to the deceased’s death.

A thorough investigation was carried out by members of Tasmania Police.  No suspicious circumstances were found and no other person was identified who may have contributed to the deceased’s death. 

Comments & Recommendations: 

Whilst the deceased had been receiving treatment for depression and anxiety and he was taking medication to assist this,  the police investigation did not reveal any evidence to support a finding that the deceased deliberately took his own life.   

From the medical evidence available to me and also the evidence from the deceased's wife, it is most probable that the deceased was sleep walking when he has left his home and entered the water.  It is not known exactly where he entered the water however it is approximately 10 metres opposite their back garden fence to Big Creek and about 60 metres to the Inglis River.

Before I conclude this matter, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.

This matter is now concluded

Dated:  10 day of May, 2013.

  

Timothy HIll
CORONER