Beloved grandfather fell to his death on son’s wedding day

Hertfordshire Coroner's Court
Hertfordshire Coroner's Court

A beloved husband, father and grandfather died on the morning of his son’s wedding after falling out of his first-floor window, an inquest heard today.

George Charles Connor, known to friends and family as Charlie, was discovered dead by his other son and daughter-in-law in the garden of his Abbots Langley home – where he had lived for 30 years – on August 15 last year.

The family had gone to check on him after voicemail messages asking if he needed picking up for the wedding had gone unanswered.

Assistant coroner for Herts, Edward Solomons, read aloud evidence which revealed Mr Connor, 78, had a history of depression and had often expressed suicidal thoughts since getting treatment from 2010. He had also been struggling to come to terms with an illness in the family.

Consultant psychiatrist Sima Shende – who worked for the Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust for part of the time Mr Connor was receiving treatment and medication – said her patient had never previously acted on his suicidal ideation.

The court heard a full bowl of cornflakes was found in the kitchen on the day of Mr Connor’s death, which family statements revealed he would usually eat between 5am and 6am each morning. He would never pour it out the previous night.

Mr Connor’s daily newspaper was also discovered unopened on his doormat, with the door having been locked from the inside.

Det Sgt Andy Wiseman from the local crime unit based at Rickmansworth attended Mr Connor’s home at the time of the tragic discovery.

He said the rear bedroom window was fully open and that a single bed on which Mr Connor had been sleeping on was made, with pyjamas folded up at one end.

Det Sgt Wiseman said investigations were conducted to rule out any assault or criminal activity surrounding Mr Connor’s death, and he was satisfied that nobody else was involved.

Forensics revealed Mr Connor’s fingerprints on the inside of the upstairs window frame, and that he had hit his head on a plant pot as he fell, landing on the garden patio.

A pathology report determined that no alcoholic or drug substances were found to be in Mr Connor’s system at the time of his death, other than prescription and over-the-counter medication which were either within or under their quoted therapeutic ranges.

A letter from one of Mr Connor’s sons, read by coroner Mr Solomons, said: “Charlie was an amazing dad, grandad and husband. We are so lucky to have had him in our lives.”

The letter went on to suggest Mr Connor may have opened the window to look outside or contemplate his thoughts, and that he may have fallen as he did so.

In his summary, Mr Solomons said: “The cause of death was the injuries one would expect from falling from a height onto a hard surface.

“There were no signs of criminal activity – the door was locked from the inside, the bed had been made and breakfast was prepared. The window was opened and he had fallen below.

“The primary and most difficult decision is whether he intended to do so, did he intend to take his own life?

“The medical evidence suggests that he was depressed and from time to time showed suicidal intent, but on the other hand, he had never acted on those thoughts and he didn’t leave a suicide note.

“Some would think it unlikely he would so on the day his son was to marry. It seems a most unlikely date.

“There are alternative explanations – perhaps that was he was standing on the bed, thinking about it. I am not satisfied that he took his own life or intended to do so.”

The coroner recorded an open verdict and the medical cause of death as multiple traumatic injuries.

He also addressed the family present at the inquest at Hertfordshire Coroner’s Court in Hatfield, saying: “I would like to express my condolences to the family, with what has been a horrible event.

“It was going to be dreadful, on the day and circumstances in which it happened, and the circumstances in which you had found him.

“Your lovely words show what a wonderful man he was, in spite of the difficulties he had.”