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‘Brilliant’ photographer’s death at reservoir was an accident, inquest told

A keen photographer, who’s body was found in a reservoir, is believed to have slipped and fallen, an inquest heard.

Dr Janet Napier, Deputy Coroner for Cheshire, ruled that Kenneth Hibbert, (56), of Linksway, Congleton, died on 7th June in accidental circumstances.

The body of Mr Hibbert, known to friends and family as Ken, was found by Bosley Reservoir worker George William Ball in the morning while he was carrying out routine checks.

The retired Congleton ost office manager’s Ford Focus was parked and with the doors locked on Smithy Lane. His digital camera was inside.

Police said that images were retrieved from the camera of the scenery around the reservoir, including one of the Cloud, that were dated the evening of 6th June.

But the inquest, held at Crewe Municipal Building last Wednesday, heard that Mr Hibbert must have returned to his vehicle after taking photographs, dropped off his camera and headed for a stroll around the water’s edge.

Mr Hibbert’s sister, Mary Ann Shufflebotham, of Camborne Close, Congleton, confirmed that Mr Hibbert was born on 15th December, 1954, in Macclesfield and that he had never married.

He was brought up in Congleton, with his four brothers and one sister. He attended

Crewe College, before getting his first job at the old Congleton Post Office and working his way up to the position of manager.

He later decided to change career and went to work in Stockport building computers.

The inquest heard that Mr Hibbert had suffered from various mental health problems including depression.

A doctor’s report confirmed Mr Hibbert had “ongoing issues with anxiety” and sometimes suffered panic attacks for which he was taking medication.

Mrs Shufflebotham said she was largely unaware of this, adding he was a “private gentleman”. She told the inquest she would often go round and help with his housework and “make sure he was alright”.

He complained to his sister that one of his symptoms was feeling like he was in a box that he couldn’t get out of.

Mrs Shufflebotham recalled that her brother never seemed the same after the “slight stroke” he had three years ago.

She added that he was always the main carer of their mother and was “badly affected” by her death four years ago.

Mr Hibbert’s friend of 30 years, Joanne Phillips, of Dale Crescent, Congleton, told the inquest she usually saw him every day.

She had seen him the day before he died and they had watched “Eggheads” together as usual before they said their goodbyes and he said he would pick her up in the morning to take her to her hairdresser.

She said it was unlike him to forget but she was not overly concerned, saying: “I thought he’d gone to take photographs and forgotten the time.”

She described him as “an absolutely brilliant photographer” and told the coroner Mr Hibbert’s work had even appeared on

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“North West Tonight” and at Congleton Museum.

Mrs Phillips said: “We’d spend hours trying to get nice photographs of my little dog, Max.”

She also recalled spending a “lovely weekend” with him in the Peak District the weekend prior to his death.

Mr Ball, of British Waterways, described finding Mr Hibbert’s body at about 10.30am, saying: “Part of my everyday job is adjusting the valves. I noticed there was something breaking the surface of the water. As I got closer, I saw it was a person’s body.”

He walked down the steps to inspect it closer and rang his supervisor to tell him to inform the police.

Det Spt Iain Madden, of Cheshire police, said he felt happy to rule out suicide as in his experience, those who wished to selfharm would not be in the frame of mind to leave the car secure.

Despite initial suspicions, he also wished to rule out “any foul play” or third party involvement as there was no evidence of a struggle. Det Spt Madden added that after dog hairs were discovered in his car, they considered the possibility of chasing a dog into the water, but the theory was dismissed after his friend’s dog Max was discovered at home.

Det Spt Madden said: “When we recovered Ken, there was no sign he’d fallen or been pushed. I would have expected bruising or cuts.”

Pathologist Dr Suboda Malintha Weerasinghe, told the inquest, that on inspection, there was no evidence to suggest he had been injured and there were no injuries to his face. He also noted that there was suggestion of an acute heart attack and two minor arrests. Although he could not rule out drowning in the conventional sense, no water was found in his lungs.

The doctor believed the cause of death was more likely to be a vasovagal reflex due to his face hitting the water. He explained that the reflex is an inbuilt response to stimulation to the vagus nerve that results in a slowing of the pulse rate. He added that Mr Hibbert would have died instantly.

Dr Napier recorded a verdict of accidental death, adding it was unclear how he ended up in the water or why he went for a walk again, but it most likely that he slipped into the reservoir and the shock of the water killed him.

The Chronicle, Thursday, 29th December, 2011. www.chronicleseries.co.uk 7

CHRONICLE FEATURE

New year, new woman, new life for Catherine!

On 18th January, Catherine Powell nervously stepped through the door of her local Slimming world group in Alsager not knowing where her journey would take her.

Now, less than a year later, and after losing a massive eight stones Catherine has completely changed her life and in the Bank Corner, Alsager, on Saturday, 7th January at 10am she will be opening her own group as a consultant.

Catherine, (34), and a mum of four, explained how she came to join her group.

“Back in January I was at my biggest, a size 28, I was very depressed about my weight and thought I would always be big and unhappy.

“I had tried going on a diet before in the past but never stuck to it as it as it was hard to deprive myself and I gave up after a short period of time and always gained back what I’d lost and more.”

The turning point came for Catherine when her health began to suffer due to her weight.

“I was only 33 and I was constantly tired, I had no energy and I’d even get out of breath walking up the stairs. One night I had palpitations and thought I was having a heart attack, that was the last straw.”

The next day Catherine looked up the details for the nearest group.

“I was nervous about joining as I didn’t know what to expect but I couldn’t have had a warmer welcome, there was never any judgement just support and friendship.

“At first I couldn’t believe that I could eat all the foods I loved like unlimited rice, pasta, lean meat, potatoes, fruit and veg with no weighing or measuring and most importantly never being hungry!

“It sounded too good to be true but I started to lose weight every week and with each pound I lost my confidence in myself and my faith in the eating plan grew.”

Catherine makes life a lot easier for herself by cooking family friendly meals that the whole family enjoys, she explained: “We all eat the same meals; Friday night is curry night, it’s delicious and I have a huge portion, my friends and family can’t believe how much I eat and still lose weight, it’s fantastic and doesn’t feel like a diet at all!

“My favourite meal is chicken with bacon and cheese and BBQ sauce, big chunky homemade chips served with great big mushrooms and veg.

“It’s really not a diet it’s a lifestyle change.”

Now Catherine has lost eight stones she feels like a whole new woman: “My friends and family can’t believe the change in me and when I bump into people I’ve not seen in a while they are gobsmacked, it’s lovely when I get compliments on how well I look now and the thrill of buying a size 12 had me beaming from ear to ear, but most importantly I have made a change that my whole family is benefiting from and I’m setting a good example to my children for their future.”

To speak to Catherine, call 01270 879716 or just go along to the Bank Corner (room upstairs), Alsager, on Saturday, 7th January at 10am.

(Submitted photographs).

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