Tragic end to celebrations

Stephen Burn.
Stephen Burn.
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A MAN drowned after hitting his head and slipping unconscious into the River Wear.

Stephen Burn, pictured, stormed off after a row with his girlfriend at a wedding reception, at Durham Rowing Club, after enjoying the day’s celebrations.

An inquest heard his partner Sarah Harding thought he would turn up at their home after he disappeared from the party, but reported him missing the next day.

A week later, the 26-year-old Sunderland AFC fan’s body was found upstream from the boathouse.

Pathologist Dr Jennifer Hamilton told the hearing at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court she had found a wound to the back of Mr Burn’s head and his lungs were expanded, which tends to indicate drowning.

Samples also revealed he had been drinking and would have been about three times over the drink-drive limit.

Ms Harding told coroner Andrew Tweddle that although the couple argued, she did not consider the fallout to be serious.

Pc Sonya Stewart, part of the team which investigated Mr Burn’s disappearance, said she had reviewed CCTV from the club.

“It appeared he was having a really good night, very drunk, but very affectionate, cuddling and kissing people and seemed to be having a really good time.”

Mr Burn, who lived in Witton Gilbert but was from Newton Hall in Durham, had been joined by his girlfriend for the evening after he had attended the wedding ceremony earlier in the day.

CCTV images showed Mr Burn take a pint and a glass of wine with him as he left the rear entrance to the building, on the side of the Wear, stopping to speak to the groom on the way out.

Mr Tweddle said: “I have seen the footage myself.

“He’s seen coming out of the premises and he appears to be unsteady on his feet. The argument itself seems to have been nothing particularly serious and probably fuelled by drink as well.

“The premises themselves are very close to the river and obviously something has happened. We don’t know what exactly, but he has entered the river.

“As Dr Hamilton has explained, he had an injury to the back of his head and slipped and was probably unconscious when he entered the river and drowned.

“I would say it is nothing more than a tragic incident.

“That’s not to trivialise it, but it was nothing more. It’s very sad.”

Verdict: Accidental death.