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Monday, 01 September 2014

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West Cumbrian man lay dead for two days - inquest

A young man died walking home from a birthday party, an inquest heard.

Gary Murphy, 29, was found dead by his uncle, John Burns, in long grass to the side of a footpath only a few hundred yards from his Cleator Moor home.

He had left the house party to walk home to The Hawthorns around 1am November 3, and Mr Burns made the tragic discovery just over 48 hours later.

An inquest into his death heard that Mr Murphy – a passionate sports fan – was “merry, but not drunk” on leaving the party.

Deputy coroner Robert Chapman concluded that “walking home in darkness, combined with the alcohol he had consumed, caused him to fall down a slope to the side of the path”.

“He had been lying undiscovered for some time in freezing cold weather,” he added.

A post-mortem found “nothing physical” that caused Mr Murphy’s death, and there were no drugs found in his system.

The cause of death was given as alcohol intoxication, and Mr Chapman ruled that Mr Murphy died as a result of an accident.

Mr Murphy had been a kitchen assistant at Summergrove hotel, near Whitehaven, for eight years, and left with the rest of the staff when the venue closed last March. The party he attended was a gathering of former colleagues to celebrate a birthday at a home at Weddicar Gardens, a five-minute walk from his home.

A friend who was at the party, Ceri Hall, said that Mr Murphy was not a “big drinker” – a fact confirmed by his parents, Michael and Joan – and had drunk around nine drinks during the seven-hour get-together.

Mr Chapman found that because Mr Murphy was unused to drinking a lot of alcohol, the amount he did drink on that night could have impaired his walk home.

Mr Murphy’s family was initially unaware that he had not returned home, the inquest heard, as his parents and two brothers were coming and going from the family home all weekend.

His mother, Joan, said it was not unusual for the busy family members not to cross paths over the course of a few days.

“There was no urgency because we were out for the day on Saturday and then at work on the Sunday, and we knew he had plans, so we just presumed we all kept missing one another,” she said

Their concern grew however on the night of November 4 – two nights after the party – when Michael Murphy passed his son’s bedroom at 2am and found he was not home.

They contacted the police and Mr Murphy, along with brother-in-law Mr Burns, began to retrace the steps his son would have taken home from the party. Mr Burns made the tragic discovery at around 7am on the footpath that joins the Bowthorn and Mill Hill areas of Cleator Moor.

Mr and Mrs Murphy paid tribute to their son, a former St Benedict’s School pupil.

“He was very well liked by everyone who knew him,” they said. “He had so many friends and the turn-out at his funeral was overwhelming. He was a good son, and we love him and miss him dearly.”

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