An 84-year-old man was found dead in a stream near Bicester after he went missing from his home, an inquest heard today.   

Christopher Howard, of Eastbrook Close in Piddington, died on December 29 last year.

His body was found in a culvert (a large pipe used to channel water) off Thame Road, just 50 metres from his house.

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Mr Howard’s cause of death was given after a post-mortem as hypothermia.

The inquest heard that the 84-year-old lived alone and was suffering from suspected dementia.

His condition had deteriorated since his wife went into a care home two to three months prior to his death.

Oxford Coroner’s Court was told that concerns had been raised about Mr Howard’s welfare to social services.

His neighbour, Mario Terzino provided a written statement which was read out at the inquest.

Mr Terzino said: “Chris would often go out on walks to neighbouring villages.

Oxford Mail:

“On a number of occasions Chris would be found on the lanes in the village looking confused.

“In 2021 I made contact with social services telling them that I thought they [Chris and his wife] needed around the clock care.”

He explained that he phoned Oxfordshire County Council’s adult social care department on December 28 suggesting that Mr Howard be taken into a care home that day.

Mr Terzino last saw Mr Howard at around 8:30pm on December 28.

He then raised the alarm the next morning when he saw Mr Howard’s front door open and the 84-year-old was not at home.

The inquest heard that CCTV footage shows Mr Howard leaving his house in the direction of Thame Road at around 12:20am on December 29.

A resident in a house nearby reported to have heard cries for help at around 1am, but couldn’t see anyone in distress.

Madelaine Dempster, Mr Howard’s allocated social worker, gave evidence at the hearing at Oxford Coroner’s Court.

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She said: “Throughout my involvement with Mr Howard, I felt that his care needs could be met at home.

“I hoped that in time, if he wished, he would join his wife in a care home.

Ms Dempster explained that although concerns had been raised by neighbours and carers, a risk of leaving his house at night had not been brought to his attention.

The inquest heard that at the time of his death Mr Howard had agreed to go into the care home with his wife but logistical arrangements were still being made.

Darren Salter, Oxfordshire’s head coroner, ruled the death as an accident and he stressed that the actions of Mr Howard’s neighbours should be commended in this case.

He noted in the record of inquest: “Christopher Howard was known to be suffering with symptoms of dementia and concerns were raised about his welfare to his GP and social services.

“He was subject to visits and assessments from a social worker.

“In the early hours of December 29, he left his house and is believed to have fallen into a ditch about 50 metres from his house in Thame Road, Piddington.

“He was discovered deceased at approximately 3:30pm later that day and died due to hypothermia.”