Karen Jackson, 57, died as a result of an accident after she drowned in the River Goyt in Stockport, Greater Manchester, an inquest heard. However, Karen had bronchitis and struggled with her weight so questions remain about how she managed to get to the river – a tributary of the River Mersey – late one night in May 2021.
CCTV footage showed a figure believed to be Karen walking alone towards a ginnel leading to the river on the night of her death.
Stockport Coroner’s Court heard Karen was found in the river near an access point some hours later by a dog walker.
Her coat, training shoes, phone, umbrella and a bag containing her personal items were found neatly placed nearby.
Alison Mutch, senior coroner for South Manchester, said the cause of death was drowning and, because there was no evidence Karen had taken her own life, the death was “accidental”.
She added there was no third-party involvement or suspicious circumstances surrounding the death, Manchester Evening News says.
PC David Wood, Greater Manchester Police coroner’s officer, said concerns about how Karen got to the river from her home 2.5 miles away in the Offerton area were flagged to the senior investigating officer.
They, however, were not deemed to be of significance.
The court heard Karen suffered from bipolar affective disorder and had been under the care of Stockport’s Community Mental Health Team until 2013 before transitioning to a new PPS (the Mental Health Prevention and Personalisation Service) in the town.
The service was set up to help people remain in the community and Karen was one of its first users.
PPS pathway recovery worker Barry Tyldsley was helping Karen and had regular contact with her until her death.
He said: “When lockdown came in March 2020 she found it difficult because she was advised to shield as a result of her breathing difficulties and her weight.
“She was part of that vulnerable group.
“She was very conscious of her condition and adhered to all the restrictions. But her anxieties were raised and she absolutely isolated herself.
“I increased my support, helped with her shopping and collecting medication and had regular telephone contact as a way of managing that anxiety.”
He said that, in 2021, she was still feeling “pretty isolated” and was reluctant to meet up with people.
Mr Tyldsley said that, the day before Karen died, he emailed the Community Mental Health Team to ask for a clinical review and assessment.
Because she had never mentioned taking her own life and had re-started taking medication for psychotic episodes, her case was not deemed urgent.
Speaking after the inquest, her two friends Nicki and Susan Harrison told how Karen had previously worked as a doctor’s receptionist and in retail. She had also taught English as a foreign language.
Nicki said: “She was the best of friends with everyone. She was funny, intelligent and an amazing person to know.
“Obviously she had mental health problems, but that was only a small part of who she was.
“Most of her friends were longstanding. Sue knew her for 35 years, and I’ve known her for 30 years. Her best friend in Spain has also known her for 30 years.”