Man from East Wittering drowned while ‘trying to clear his mind’, inquest hears

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A 44-year-old man is likely to have died after going for a swim in the sea in February to clear his mind, an inquest has heard.

Oliver Hawe, a boatman from Church Road, East Wittering, regularly went for a swim in the sea.

His body was found on the beach at Seven Sisters Country Park in East Sussex by French tourists on the morning of February 15.

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall last week heard Mr Hawe had died from drowning.

An open verdict was recorded after East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said there was no evidence that Mr Hawe had taken his own life and that he had definitely not fallen from cliffs at the beauty spot.

Mr Hawe’s family said he had suffered with paranoia, used drugs and alcohol and suffered with mental health problems for a number of years.

But they said he had seemed more settled in the months leading up to his death.

His mother Lynne Purchase said on behalf of the family that her son often went swimming in the sea ‘to clear his confused mind’.

“He was very spiritual, loved the sea and was never happier than when he was at sea,” said Mrs Purchase.

“He touched many lives, he was such a gentle caring soul, very intelligent with a lovely sense of humour.

“He was and always will be very loved.”

Mr Hawe’s body was recovered by Eastbourne lifeboat crews who were in the area on the all-weather lifeboat carrying out exercises.

His death was investigated by former Sussex Police detective Paul Sellings who said he was satisfied there were no suspicious circumstances.

Recording his verdict at the hearing on August 24, Mr Craze said: “Suicide must never be presumed, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and there is no evidence to show Mr Hawe walked into the sea to take his own life.

“I think it’s probable that he drowned accidentally but we will never know what happened.”

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