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Dad blasts police who told friend before family of his son’s death at Lepe

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A DISTRAUGHT father hit out at police after revealing how he reported his son missing only to discover that officers had found his body four hours earlier and already told a friend that he was dead.

The body of 29-year-old Darrell White, from Fawley, was found hanging in the grounds of Lepe House, at Lepe beach, by a dog walker in February.

His father, Steve White, told Winchester Coroner’s Court the police handling of the news had been “very poor”, adding: “It was quite bad that they let someone else know before us that my son was dead.

The inquest took place at Winchester Coroners' Court
The inquest took place at Winchester Coroners' Court

“He then had to ring me and tell me that he was gone.”

Steve told area coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp that his daughter reported Darrell missing at 1.30pm on 15th February this year. He had failed to turn up for his roofing job that morning and had not answered his phone since leaving home the previous Saturday.

Steve said officers were given the registration of a borrowed van Darrell was driving, and the family had called police again in the afternoon.

The inquest heard the van was found near where Darrell’s body was discovered that morning, hanging in the grounds of Lepe House.

It was registered to Darrell’s friend and colleague, Lee Milsom. In a statement, Mr Milsom told how police tracked him down on the day Darrell died.

Mr Milsom had tried to reach Darrell by phone when he did not turn up for work, but police later told him Darrell was dead.

He gave to the police the phone number of Darrell’s father but subsequently received a call from him asking if he had heard from Darrell – and Mr Milsom realised that he did not know his son had died.

Mr Milsom said that following the call he rang Steve back to tell him the bad news.

But it was not until 7pm later that night, Steve said, that police turned up at the home he shared with Darrell in Heather Road to inform him of his son’s death.

The inquest heard how Darrell had struggled since the death of his mother at the age of 46 from cancer in 2017.

Steve said that although they knew Darrell was down at times “he never gave us any indication that he felt like there was no way out”.

Darrell’s former girlfriend Vanessa Sheppard said he had told her he had therapy for a year for anxiety and depression. She believed this had been made worse in October last year when his father became ill.

Giving a verdict of suicide, Ms Rhodes-Kemp called Darrell’s death “particularly sad”, adding: “It feels like such a complete waste, it really, really does.” Addressing his family, she said: “If I could bring him back, I would.”

Hampshire police told the A&T Mr Milsom was contacted as the registered owner of the van to identify the body and the circumstances were explained to him.

A spokesperson added: “When the officers had identified the deceased man through making these initial enquiries, the deceased’s next of kin were notified of the death.

“While we would always endeavour to notify the next of kin in the event of a sudden death, on occasions this is not always possible. Officers at the time carried all relevant initial lines of enquiry to establish the man’s identity.”

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