A coroner has said that the cause of death of a Nottinghamshire man can’t be confirmed after he fell between the fences of gardens backing onto each other – because his body was too decomposed and had a “maggot infestation”.
Lee Bowman was missing for two months while police confirmed he was “alive and well” to NottinghamshireLive after several false sightings – but there has since been an admission that he could have died at any stage during that time.
The police investigation caused the 44-year-old’s daughter, Corrina, to suffer serious ill mental health after they had reportedly assumed Lee was “missing because he didn’t want to be found and was drunk somewhere”.
Mr Bowman’s family had repeatedly said it was out of character for him to not contact them.
Following an inquest, the 23-year-old told BBC News: “I’m grateful for how the court saw my dad for a human and not his addictions and troubles”, adding she is glad her father won’t have “died for nothing” since “things are having to change” now.
She added: “The pathologist couldn’t guarantee he died that night. What if someone had gone out to look for him? Would he have been alive? Would we have been able to save him?”, before adding: “I hope he passed away really quickly and wasn’t trapped for days”.
Mr Bowman had a history of anxiety disorder, depressive disorder and substance abuse, and was an alcoholic at the time of his death, as well as having liver cirrhosis.
Bowman, who had been living in a homeless shelter in Newark at the time, went missing after visiting his girlfriend in South Yorkshire.
His brother reported him missing to police, who treated the case initially as a “deliberate absence”, rather than a missing person enquiry, but changed to the latter two days later when Bowman’s father also reported him missing.
After a few potential sightings of Bowman, police said at the time that Mr Bowman had been found ‘alive and well’ – although the family still issued an appeal, as they hadn’t heard from him. Nevertheless the case was closed shortly after.
The case was reopened, however, on December 7 – now with South Yorkshire Police – and detectives found Mr Bowman’s body between two garden fences that backed onto each other, on January 3, 2022 – close to where he had visited his girlfriend.
The pathologist has given four possible medical explanations for the death – hypothermia, positional asphyxia, drug or alcohol use and liver disease – but says assault “cannot be reliably ruled out” as evidence (both for and against it) was not available due to decomposition of the body.
The coroner could not say “with any degree of certainty” when Lee died.
South Yorkshire Police said its Professional Standards Department had carried out an internal investigation which had “identified some learning for our organisation around missing people investigations”. Det Supt Eleanor Welsh, force lead for missing people, said: “A report was created and shared across the force, and these learnings are now implemented within teams.”