Man found dead at Sandwell Valley had £100,000 debts, inquest hears
A man who was found in a pond had racked up debts topping £100,000, an inquest heard.
Paint sprayer Darren Smith, aged 55, was discovered in shallow water at Sandwell Valley Country Park last November.
His wife of 30 years, Lisa, told Black Country Coroner’s Court she reported her husband missing when he failed to return home after work.
She said: “He was never bothered about himself, just other people. He was just a really nice person.
"I knew of some financial pressures, not all of them until he passed away.
"He got into debt a few years ago. He told me he had sorted it out but obviously he hadn’t.”
Mrs Smith told the inquest she recalled spotting her husband sitting in their garden with his head in his hands just a week before his death.
She said he looked like he had got the world on his shoulders but said he appeared normal when he left for work on the day she reported him missing.
The greetings card merchandiser said Mr Smith failed to call her and his mother during his lunch break as usual, prompting concern.
She later decided to call the police and her husband's body discovered the following day.
A toxicology report revealed Mr Smith, of Stanley Road, West Bromwich, was more than one-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit and his swollen lungs were filled with fluid.
Black Country coroner Zafar Siddique said he could not be sure Mr Smith committed suicide and instead recorded an open conclusion.
He said Mr Smith did not leave a suicide note, had no history of mental health issues and had never attempted to take his life before.
But he noted Mr Smith, who only took medication for migraines, was under ‘financial pressure’ and had consumed alcohol – despite not being a regular drinker.
The coroner went on to say Mr Smith had drowned and had suffered a cardiac arrest but was unsure if it had caused him to collapse into the water.
Mr Siddique added: “I can’t be sure, to the required standard, that he intended to take his own life. I can’t be sure on the balance of probabilities that this was not an accident.”
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