Coroner rules out unlawful killing verdict in gem shop raider's death

Clint Townsend in a picture supplied by his family

Clint Townsend in a picture supplied by his family

First published in News
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Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

THE grieving family of Clint Townsend yesterday said his robbery of a city jeweller’s was “completely out of character” as a coroner ruled he had not been unlawfully killed.

Townsend suffered a heart attack when he was tackled by several people after trying to break in to John Gowing Jewellers in Oxford’s Covered Market.

Yesterday, after assistant coroner Alison Thompson recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, the 33-year-old’s family lay flowers at the spot where he had collapsed.

His sister Hailey said: “His actions were completely out of character and he will be greatly missed.”

Ms Thompson ruled Townsend died because of a combination of heart disease and being held down by members of the public.

Townsend, of Barton Road, Oxford, attempted to break in to John Gowing Jewellers with a sledgehammer at around 9.15am on March 30, 2013, but was tackled to the ground.

He died the next day at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Speaking after the three-day inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court, Hailey, who struggled to hold back tears, said: “He was a big softie and would never hurt anybody. His death has left a massive hole in our hearts.”

She said Mr Townsend’s family was still considering the verdict. The relatives then went to the Covered Market where they laid flowers near the jewellery shop, which was closed.

Ricardo Chasebi, the owner of Ricardo’s cafe in the Covered Market and a friend of Mr Townsend’s family, said he had visited the cafe before attempting to rob the store.

He said: “When I first heard what happened I didn’t believe it. It doesn’t matter what they have done, nobody deserves to die.

“He was very polite and always very nice to me.”

Oxford Mail:

  • UNITED IN GRIEF: Above, Clint Townsend’s partner and his two sisters, including Hailey, left, at the Covered Market where they placed flowers outside John Gowing Jewellers

In summing up the case Ms Thompson said that there were many inconsistencies between what the nine witnesses had told the inquest, but said this was understandable given the length of time since the incident and the speed at which events unfolded.

One of the inconsistencies surrounded how many people were pinning Townsend to the floor and Ms Thompson said that there must have been a “core group” of three.

She rejected the fact that they acted unlawfully when they tackled the would-be robber.

Ms Thompson said: “The people involved were dealing with a crisis in the heat of the moment and they were intent, not unreasonably, on keeping Mr Townsend to the ground as they had been told the police were on their way.

“I am not satisfied that any of those men acted unreasonably and therefore unlawfully.

“In coming to my conclusion I have regard for the short period of time in which people could consider what was going on and I have in mind the significant contribution of Mr Townsend’s natural disease because I believe that had his heart not been diseased to the extent it was he would not have been over come in a matter of three or four minutes.”

On Tuesday the inquest heard how Townsend had severe undiagnosed coronary heart disease which pathologist Ashley Fegan-Earl said could have led to him dying “at any point”.

Ms Thompson commended the police officers who attended the scene, particularly PC Russell Knapman who stayed with Mr Townsend to carry out CPR until he reached the John Radcliffe.

WHAT IS DEATH BY MISADVENTURE?

Death by misadventure is similar to accidental death - in fact some coroners consider them to be the same thing.

It means that the deceased or someone else was carrying out an intended action – in this case restraining Clint Townsend so he could be arrested by the police – but this had an accidental, unintended outcome – in this example Townsend’s death.

Coroners make their verdicts on the “balance of probabilities”, which is a lower standard of proof than in criminal courts where a decision has to be “beyond reasonable doubt”.

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