Acclaimed Norwich author was in ‘emotional turmoil’ at the time of his death

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 October 2011

Author Stephen Foster

Author Stephen Foster

Archant © 2007

A critically-acclaimed author and former University of East Anglia graduate and teacher who drowned in a broad near Norwich was in “emotional turmoil” at the time of his death, an inquest has heard.

The body of Stephen Foster, 48, who lived at Thorpe Road, Norwich, was discovered at Trowse Meadow, Whitlingham Broad, on June 23 after he had been reported missing to police.

A post-mortem examination found cause of death was drowning while toxicology reports established that Mr Foster had been drinking at the time. He had 385mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35.

An inquest held at the coroner’s court in Norwich heard from Trezza Azzopardi who had been Mr Foster’s partner since October 1999.

The inquest heard that Mr Foster, who had no previous physical or mental problems, had started to become “more distant” around November last year.

By April Mr Foster, whose mother had been ill and subsequently died, was “texting a lot of the time” which caused Ms Azzopardi concern.

Mr Foster went to visit his son Jack on April 28 and a couple of days later had a conversation with Ms Azzopardi about their future and selling their house during which he revealed he had been having an affair.

Mr Foster later told Ms Azzopardi he had ended the affair, which was based almost entirely on texts.

Ms Azzopardi said: “He felt worthless and he felt he deserved to die and be punished. It was all his fault and that would escalate into someone’s coming to kill him.”

She took him to the hospital where he was seen by a mental health nurse who assessed him and said his “immediate emotional turmoil” revolved around this extra relationship. She prescribed medication to deal with his anxiety, agitation and lack of sleep.

But Mr Foster’s behaviour continued to cause Ms Azzopardi concern and on June 22 she got a doctor’s appointment. Ms Azzopardi said he appeared “more lucid” on the morning of June 23 and had been to take the dog for a walk and returned with food. The couple had a long conversation about where he could stay that would be safe.

He left the house at about 1.15pm but Ms Azzopardi did not see him again and contacted police when she discovered he was not at a friend’s.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong paid tribute to Ms Azzopardi during yesterday’s inquest. He said: “It’s very clear to me that Trezza was acting in a way in which she was doing everything she possibly could in very difficult circumstances, and it’s right I should pay that tribute to her.”

Recording a narrative verdict Mr Armstrong said: “Stephen Foster’s death was caused by drowning in Whitlingham Broad whilst he was in a distressed and disturbed state of mind and after he had consumed a considerable quantity of alcohol.

“It is not possible to form a safe and reliable conclusion as to his intention and exact state of mind at the moment he went into the water. No other person was directly involved in his death.”

Mr Armstrong said Mr Foster was a “very respected, very talented and very popular person” who had “got himself into a situation from which he could find no way out”.

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