Mystery of Stratford drowned man’s death remains after inquest

An artist's sketch of Kevin Holehan. Picture: MPS

An artist's sketch of Kevin Holehan. Picture: MPS - Credit: MPS

The death of a “frustrated artist” who drowned in the River Lea six years ago remains a mystery after a coroner delivered an open verdict yesterday.

The body of Kevin Holehan was discovered by a passerby in the water near the High Street, Stratford, back in 2009, despite his being able to swim.

Only last month, following a lengthy and dogged investigation led by Plaistow’s Det Sgt Gerad Healy, who also attended the inquest, was Mr Holehan’s identity revealed. He was just 48 years old and lived in Borough Road, Southwark, at the time.

In a statement read out at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court, Mr Holehan’s sister Sandi Ashworth remembered her brother as a “creative” youngster who had experienced mental health issues as an adult.

“He much preferred to draw and paint rather than being outside playing football,” she said, adding that in later life her brother had been a “frustrated artist” who had once displayed his art in a cafe.

The court further heard how Mr Holehan, who grew up in Leeds, West Yorkshire, had suffered from paranoid psychosis and depression and had attempted suicide with an overdose.

Medical notes showed that just five months before his death he had experienced suicidal thoughts, albeit without expressing any intention to actually harm himself.

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But senior coroner Nadia Persaud said there was insufficient evidence to conclude anything but an open verdict.

“There’s no evidence available to me on how he came to be in the water, there’s no eyewitness and no CCTV,” she said, adding that both accidental and suicide verdicts could not be ruled out.

“In the absence of any evidence of how he came to drown, my conclusion on how he died is open. I would also like to pass on the sympathies of the court to Mr Holehan’s mother and sister, and all his family.”