Man fell to his death while trying to climb down from balcony, inquest told

Maintenance man Gary Henderson, 64, was pronounced dead by paramedics at 2.36am on June 24, 2020.

Gary Henderson death
Gary Henderson death

A man fell to his death from the balcony of a third-floor flat after he climbed over it and tried to descend the building while fearing for his safety, an inquest heard.

Gary Henderson, 64, travelled in a taxi from Harwich in Essex where he lived to a party at the block in Duke Street in Ipswich, which he had not visited before.

Mr Henderson travelled in the taxi with Timothy Gill, who knew the flat’s occupant Rebecca Hibble, Monday’s hearing in Ipswich was told.

Maintenance man Mr Henderson was pronounced dead by paramedics at 2.36am on June 24, 2020.

Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley recorded Mr Henderson’s medical cause of death as severe traumatic head injuries.

He said that a “party had been taking place” and there were five people other than Mr Henderson in the flat, though “three of those individuals had left prior to the incident occurring”.

Mr Parsley said it was the “first occasion Gary had visited the premises and he had no previous knowledge of the property”.

Recording a narrative conclusion, the coroner said: “Gary Henderson died when, fearing for his safety, he climbed over the balcony of a third-floor flat and while attempting to climb down lost his footing and fell to the ground below.”

Mr Parsley said that a “small amount of blood” was found next to the sofa where Mr Henderson had been inside the flat.

“What caused Gary to fear for his safety or caused his blood to be present in the flat or what occurred immediately prior to him climbing out couldn’t be ascertained on the available evidence,” he said.

A post-mortem examination recorded that Mr Henderson had 313 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which was “likely to result in an extreme degree of intoxication in an average social drinker”.

The legal alcohol limit for driving in England is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Detective Inspector Matthew Connick said: “I believe Gary ended up on that balcony because he was in fear of what was happening inside that flat.

“Alcohol plays a factor in some of that in terms of decision making.”

Mr Henderson’s cousin Paul Henderson, who attended the inquest, asked the officer if he believed that the “flat door had been blocked to Gary or he felt too fearful to go to the door”.

Det Insp Connick said: “I think in terms of what his options may have been to him he seemed to think the balcony was the best option to him rather than walking past Karl Horsnell (who was also in the flat) and Rebecca Hibble.”

He added that witnesses reported that Mr Henderson had said “I’m not going back in there because of them”.

He said Mr Henderson “started to climb down the railings like a ladder – that’s when he lost his footing and fell”.

The officer said three people – Mr Horsnell, Ms Hibble and Mr Gill – were initially arrested on suspicion of murder, with Mr Gill released and the two others re-arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, before Mr Horsnell and Ms Hibble were also released without charge.

Asked by Paul Henderson if it was “Horsnell creating that atmosphere of aggression” inside the flat, Det Insp Connick told the inquest: “That’s correct.”

Adam Tye, who lives opposite the flats, said he had seen a woman looking over the side of the balcony and telling a man “get back in, don’t be stupid”.

“She continued to try to persuade him to get back over the railings back into the flat,” he said.

Mr Tye called for an ambulance after the man fell.

Arturas Klasinskis, another resident in the block, said he could hear a woman’s voice “telling someone ‘get off the balcony’ and ‘stop leaning out'”.

“I would describe the female’s tone of voice as concerned,” he said, adding: “I could hear the tone of her voice changing, getting more desperate.”

Mr Henderson’s sister, Kim Henderson, said in a statement read to the inquest that her brother “had a very good character but was a bit naïve as he thought everybody was his friend”.

“Unfortunately his luck ran out after trusting some dubious people,” she said.

She said he would go fishing and do odd jobs for neighbours and friends.

He had a “hand to mouth existence” and was a “heavy drinker”, she said.

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