Mystery still surrounds how woman ended up in UEA Broad, inquest in Norwich told

Police and paramedics at the UEA Broad where the body was discovered. Picture: Denise Bradley Police and paramedics at the UEA Broad where the body was discovered. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
2:53 PM

Mystery still surrounds exactly how or when a woman ended up in the UEA Broad where she drowned, an inquest has heard.

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Divers from the Underwater Search & Recovery Diving Unit at work doing a fingertip search of the UEA Broad. Picture: Denise BradleyDivers from the Underwater Search & Recovery Diving Unit at work doing a fingertip search of the UEA Broad. Picture: Denise Bradley

The body of Nomeda Pundziene, a Lithuanian national living in Gertrude Road in the city, was discovered in the broad at the UEA campus on Thursday 1 August.

She was formally identified more than a week later, on August 9, when her family came forward after recognising an image of the dress she was wearing which had been released to the media by police.

A post mortem examination was carried out and stated cause of death as drowning with a toxicology analysis identifying the presence of a high blood alcohol concentration of 257mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood - more than three times the legal limit for drivers which is 80 mg.

An inquest held in Norwich today heard that Mrs Pundziene, who came to Norfolk about four and a half years before her death and had been living in Norwich for about two years, heard she was last seen by her husband Zydrunas Pundzys<corr>on July 20 who said she appeared “very happy and content” was told she was “going for a walk” wearing the flower-patterened dress in which she was found.

Nomeda Pundziene, 43, whose body was found in the lake at the UEA. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.Nomeda Pundziene, 43, whose body was found in the lake at the UEA. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.

The inquest heard from Mr Pundzys, who was married to his wife for almost 23 years at the time of her death, that his wife had a problem with alcohol which started before she moved to the UK although was “sober” the last time he saw her and had been for a couple of weeks.

In addition to her problem with drink Mr Pundzys said that she would also sometimes “disappear” for periods of up to a couple of weeks while in Lithuania and between three days and a week while in the UK which is why he initially did not report her as missing.

But after about a week Mr Pundzys said he started to become concerned about his wife who did not have a phone with her. He said: “I felt that something was not right. I said to my son ‘I don’t think we’ve got mum anymore’”.

His worst fears were realised after he was contacted by a friend, Ruta Zakeviciene, who was also worried and had seen the image of the dress released by police who were appealing for information after the body had been discovered.

Mr Pundzys said: “My friend’s wife phoned me and told me she had bad news for me and I quickly understood what that was.”

He said he then went to the police station and later confirmed the identity of his wife who he described as “super”.

Detective Sergeant Dave Freeman said police conducted a number of inquiries to try and establish who the woman in the broad was and received “numerous calls” from members of the public who thought the person found might be a relative.

Det Sgt Freeman said police were “really grateful for the assistance of the media” who helped publicise images of the dress that led to Mrs Pundziene being identified.

But despite various appeals and trawling through footage from 300 CCTV cameras on and around the UEA campus Det Sgt Freeman said there was noting which showed where or when she had entered the lake and no confirmed sightings of her since she left home in July.

He said: “The facts are we don’t know where she had been from when she left home on July 20 until when she entered the lake.”

Home Office Pathologist Ben Swift said the level of alcohol in Mrs Pudziene’s blood would, in a social drinker, have resulted in signs of “marked drunkenness” which might have affected her judgement and coordination.

He found no marks of an offensive, defensive or restraint type and no evidence of traumatic sexual assault or physical assault by a third party prior to death.

Giving a narrative conclusion, Norfolk coroner Jacqueline Lake, said: “Nomeda Pundziene was last seen by her family on 20 July 2013 her body was found in a lake on 1 August 2013, she having drowned. It’s not known how Nomeda Pundziene came to be in the lake but there’s no evidence there was anything suspicious about her death.”

Would you like to pay tribute to a lost loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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