Woman’s death was a tragic accident

This Is Wiltshire: Phil Clough at the spot where he found the body of Helen Jones Phil Clough at the spot where he found the body of Helen Jones

Helen Jones drowned in a Cotswold river after a tiff with her partner over whether their hotel bedroom window should be open or shut, an inquest heard today.

Helen, 49, of Bullfinch Close, Swindon, had attended a wedding reception at the Swan Hotel in Bibury, near Cirencester, on April 13 but had a row with partner Sarah French when they went back to their room at about 12.20am.

She wanted to open the window but her partner wanted it shut.

Sometime during the night Helen left their room, collected a bottle of wine from her car, and walked to the nearby River Coln, the Gloucester inquest was told.

Early the next morning her body was found in the river by resident Philip Clough, with her bag, phone, other belongings and the empty wine bottle on the bank, the inquest heard.

Gloucestershire coroner Katy Skerrett ruled her death was an accident.

Sarah French had told the inquest in a statement: “We had a very small argument. I felt she’d had a lot to drink and I thought she would go to bed and sleep it off. I left the room to go and join some friends at 1.40am. The hotel CCTV showed Helen leaving the room at 12.47am. She went to her car, opened the boot and took out a bottle of wine and walked off.

“I got back to our room at 2.30am and she was not there. I texted her at 2.50am and got no reply.”

She said she was concerned about Helen but did not know what to do and did not want to disturb friends or hotel staff.

Then police arrived at her room just after 7am to break the news of Helen’s death, she stated.

Ms French told the inquest: “The argument was literally a very small one over her opening the window and me wanting to close the window.”

She added: “Before this, Helen had been upset over an argument with her family and this had really affected her for five weeks prior to the wedding. I think with the drink as well she was in a melancholy state. On a couple of occasions during that day she had been very upset.”

Helen’s father told the coroner: “Basically, 11 years ago Helen just left the family unit. There was friction over that 11 years but the assertion has been made that we were at loggerheads . We saw little of each other – but we were not enemies.”

A toxicology report showed Helen had 191mgs of alcohol in 100mls of blood – almost two and a half times the limit for a drink driver.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: “It is clear she had had arguments with members of her family and her partner.

“She had consumed too much alcohol. She then made a very bad decision to go down to the river in an intoxicated state.

“She decided to do that – she made a very bad error which led to this tragic accidental drowning. The amount of alcohol she had consumed was a contributory factor.”

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