'An unfortunate accident' - Inquest concludes into Norwich man's death

Floral tributes to Laurence Harvey who died in the River Wensum in Norwich. Picture: Simon Parkin

Floral tributes to Laurence Harvey who died in the River Wensum in Norwich. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

A 37-year-old man with learning difficulties drowned in an "unfortunate accident" after a coroner ruled his death as accidental. 

Laurence Harvey, drowned after falling into the River Wensum near Norwich yacht club, on June 19, 2020.

A two-day inquest concluded on June 15 with area coroner Yvonne Blake recording a verdict of accidental death.

On June 18, Mr Harvey had spent the evening with people on two boats sharing drinks, and became frustrated.

Shortly after 12.30am on June 19, boat owner Ben Chapman said the 37-year-old was on the Quayside with his back leaning on a rail, some four feet away from the boat. 

Less than five minutes later he was told by another boat owner Brian Jones, there was a splash.

Two people jumped into the water to try and find Mr Harvey and emergency services called. Mr Harvey's body was recovered at 4.55am on June 19.

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Ms Blake said: "Unfortunately we will never know how Laurence ended up in the water. 

"Sadly it is an unfortunate accident." 

A post mortem report found he had 134mg per 100ml of alcohol in his system and supported the medical cause of death of drowning. 

On the first day of the inquest, evidence was heard from Mr Harvey's mother Hilary, health professionals that were part of his care and the landlord of the property in Paradise Place who addressed concerns around Mr Harvey's living conditions. 

Mr Harvey had been moved from Treeview Court, Crome Road, by Swanton Care after being assaulted by another resident into a flat in Paradise Place in September 2019.

Plumbing and electrical issues in 2020 forced him into bed and breakfast accommodation on April 22 until he moved to Kings Street on June 4 and had expressed frustration at the delay. 

Ms Blake said she had widened the scope of the inquest to look at accommodation due to Mr Harvey being a vulnerable adult but the matter was separate to his death.

She said there had been "conflicting evidence" but hoped agencies took on board the concerns when placing other vulnerable adults in accommodation.

She added: "I'm concerned there were concerns."

The inquest heard concerns Mr Harvey was the subject of exploitative relationships. He had mild learning disability and adult ADHD, which his parents said gave him the mental age of a 13-year-old.

Mr Harvey was being supported for an absolute discharge from a community order and had received support from those involved with his care.