A grandmother who drowned after falling into a 14ft cesspit in her garden tried to raise the alarm – by throwing her shoes out, an inquest heard
Patricia Barden, 77, died after a rusty manhole cover in her garden collapsed underneath her.
She tumbled into the foul-smelling pool and her shoes were later found next to the manhole entrance.
Police believe she may have thrown them out of the hole in a desperate bid to attract attention, an inquest heard.
The brickwork and concrete surrounding the cesspit had become damaged to the point where it could barely support the weight of the metal cover, it was said.
An inspection of the pit found it was around a third-full of fluid and had not been cleaned for ten years, Bury St Edmunds coroner’s court heard
The inquest was told drain inspector Colin Stiff, who examined the cesspit after the death in July last year, said it was a ”death trap”.
Dr Dan Sharpeston, assistant deputy coroner for Suffolk, said: “The metal cover and brickwork was in a poor state, which Mr Stiff described as a death trap.
“Mrs Barden fell into the cesspit and we have heard there was no feasible way of getting out. Tragically, she drowned.”
The inquest heard the family of the widower, who had lived in Milden, Suffolk, for 26 years, became concerned after they could not contact her.
Suffolk Police were first called to the address at 1am on July 2 to find all the doors locked and no sign of any trouble.
Mrs Barden’s step-granddaughter, Charlotte Rush, 30, had driven up from Kent and let them in to check the house and gardens.
The fire service removed Mrs Barden’s body on July 3 and she was pronounced dead by a paramedic. A post-mortem examination stated the cause of death was drowning.
Det Insp David Giles, from Suffolk Police, told the inquest: “An officer noticed an open manhole and, with the use of a torchlight, saw what was believed to be a body in the bottom of the pit, in the water.
“We concluded that somehow she had fallen in. The access to the cesspit was heavily corroded.
“I think at some point she stood on the cover and it has given way as there is no strength there.
“If you had gone in there, you wouldn’t have been able to get out without any assistance.
”We will never know exactly the day that she fell or how long she was in there.”
Mrs Barden’s step-granddaughter’s cousin was the last person to speak to her on June 28.
Shopping receipts indicated the widow had been to Tesco in Sudbury, Suffolk, and a garden centre on June 27.
Reading the evidence of Mrs Barden’s step-granddaughter, Charlotte Rush, Dr Sharpeston said: “Her step-grandmother was an active person who drove to local towns and had a nice life.
“She’d had deep vein thrombosis in 1999, causing her to have one foot bigger than the other, meaning she was often uncomfortable in shoes.
“Her mind had been getting forgetful in the last year.
“As part of her morning routine, she would get up at 7.30am and have a walk round the garden or sit and have a cup of tea outside.”
Mrs Barden had lived alone since 1994 when her husband Charles, known as Mick, died.
Tributes were paid to widow, described as a “pillar of the community” be villagers.
Friends of Mrs Barden said she had held numerous fundraisers for St Peter’s Church in the village at her home including coffee mornings, bazaars and other activities, and said she was an “articulate” and “well-presented” person who valued her privacy.
Her step-granddaughter, Mrs Rush, 30,who lives in Kent, said: “My beloved nan, Patricia, was the best nan in the world.
“She lived her life to the full and we are all extremely sad that she is no longer with us.”
Miss Rush added: “She had lived in the area for 26 years and was an active part of the local community, often helping to raise money for the church and other good local causes.”
Verdict: Accidental death by drowning.