THE family of a “much-loved” fishmonger who died after a Boxing Day afternoon in the pub say his inquest left them with more questions than answers.
Alan Price, 51, of Barley Lane, died after falling down steps next to The Oddfellows Arms pub in Ore on December 26, 2009. Two men arrested on suspicion of his murder were released without charge and at his inquest on Wednesday, Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Father-of-one Mr Price, who post mortem tests suggested would have been drunk, hit his head when he fell, leaving him in an awkward position face-down with his legs still on the steps. He suffocated, the inquest heard.
Curtis Crook was the first person to find him, and asked his cousin Frank Chisholm to come out to the alley with him. They tried to work out if he was dead, argued about what to do, but neither called an ambulance and in the witness box Mr Crook, of Oxford Road, St Leonards, said they had been there about five minutes. It was only when a passer-by walked into the alleyway that she took charge, calling 999 and asking the men what had happened.
Mr Crook was arrested at the scene and Mr Chisholm was arrested later that night at his girlfriend’s house.
PC Jake Dallaway, said that when Mr Chisholm was arrested he asked if the man was “really dead.” When the officer asked why else they would be there, Mr Chisholm reportedly said: “It’s assault isn’t it?”
Mr Chisholm, of Hollington Old Lane, St Leonards, admitted they had been drinking for quite a while but insisted he never saw Mr Price alive. “I got there and he was not moving. I didn’t call an ambulance becase I didn’t think he was dead,” he said.
Mr Crook, who admitted he was “very drunk”, added: “I don’t know why we didn’t call. I was very shocked, you do not see this sort of thing everyday.”
In a statement from Roy Fido, of Fairlight Road, he said he heard three voices in the alleyway arguing and one sounded “very agitated and aggressive.”
Both cousins denied there had been any argument involving Mr Price, and when interviewed, their two accounts were identical and they had not had a chance to confer.
Mr Craze said: “I can see why the two of them were arrested but pretty quickly it became clear there was nothing at all to suggest this was an assault, certainly not on the part of the two witnesses who have appeared in court today. The slippery steps, the poor lighting and the degree of intoxication all probably played a part.”
Speaking after the sometimes tense hearing, during which Mr Craze had to remind those there not to “hurl accusations,” Mr Price’s sister Sandra Parker said: “There will always be an element of doubt and some of the things we heard today were a complete surprise. We have waited 14 months for this and we needed today to be over with but we have been left with more questions than answers.”