Tragic Incident in Bicester: Elderly Man’s Demise Due to Hypothermia in Waterway

Elderly Man's Demise Due to Hypothermia in Waterway

A somber occurrence unfolded in Bicester when the lifeless body of an 84-year-old man was discovered in a stream. The distressing details emerged during an inquest held today, shedding light on the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate demise of Christopher Howard. A resident of Eastbrook Close in Piddington, Howard tragically passed away on December 29 of the preceding year.

Howard’s body was found in a culvert, a sizable pipe designed to redirect water flow, located just 50 meters away from his residence on Thame Road. The post-mortem examination revealed that the cause of his untimely death was hypothermia, a result of prolonged exposure to extreme cold temperatures.

During the inquest, it was revealed that the elderly gentleman lived alone and was suspected to be suffering from dementia. His condition had noticeably deteriorated following his wife’s relocation to a care home two to three months prior to his passing. Concerns regarding Howard’s well-being had been raised with the appropriate social services, as testified by his neighbor, Mario Terzino.

Terzino’s written statement, read aloud at the inquest, detailed Howard’s tendency to embark on walks to nearby villages. Terzino expressed, “On multiple occasions, Chris would be found wandering on the village lanes, displaying signs of confusion. In 2021, I reached out to social services, informing them that I believed both Chris and his wife required full-time care.”

On December 28, Terzino contacted Oxfordshire County Council’s adult social care department, suggesting that immediate arrangements be made to place Howard in a care facility. Terzino last saw Howard at approximately 8:30 p.m. that evening. Concerned, he raised the alarm the following morning when he noticed Howard’s front door ajar and the octogenarian absent from his home.

CCTV footage revealed that Howard left his residence at around 12:20 a.m. on December 29, heading in the direction of Thame Road. A nearby resident reported hearing cries for help around 1 a.m. but failed to locate anyone in distress.

Madelaine Dempster, Howard’s designated social worker, provided testimony at the Oxford Coroner’s Court hearing. She stated, “Throughout my involvement with Mr. Howard, I believed that his care needs could be adequately met at home. My hope was that, given time, he would willingly join his wife in a care home.”

Dempster further explained that although concerns had been raised by neighbors and caregivers, the risk of Howard leaving his house at night had not been specifically addressed.

The inquest revealed that at the time of his passing, Howard had agreed to be admitted to a care home alongside his wife, but logistical arrangements were still being finalized.

Darren Salter, the head coroner for Oxfordshire, classified the incident as an accident and commended the actions of Howard’s neighbors in this distressing case. In the official record of the inquest, Salter noted, “Christopher Howard was known to be experiencing symptoms of dementia, and concerns regarding his well-being had been reported to his general practitioner and social services. He received visits and assessments from a social worker.”

“In the early hours of December 29, he departed from his residence and is believed to have fallen into a nearby water-filled ditch, approximately 50 meters away on Thame Road, Piddington. His lifeless body was discovered at approximately 3:30 p.m. later that day, and his cause of death was determined as hypothermia.

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