Date: 25 Feb 2016
Place: Irish Sea, Liverpool
Austin Michael Bellew was found dead in the the Irish Sea.
It was claimed that he had been strangled over a drugs debt and then thrown in the sea. His relatives said that drug dealers from Liverpool had come after him when they couldn't find his brother, noting that Austin Bellew's brother had already been attacked twice by the drug dealers over the debt., and said that Austin Bellew had received death threats in the days before his murder.
His post-mortem concluded that his body was too decomposed to determine his cause of death or whether there had been any foul play.
He was from Llandudno in Wales.
His family claimed that he had been strangled over an £8,000 drug debt and then thrown into the sea. At the inquest, evidence was heard regarding a woman who had been in custody who said that Austin Bellew's brother owed £8,000 to Scousers but that the brother had been in hiding and so the Scoucers had come after Austin Bellew and taken him to Liverpool where he was assaulted and strangled in a full arm lock and then thrown in the sea.
Austin Bellew's sister said, 'Austin Bellew's brother landed himself in serious trouble with some Scousers after he acquired drugs from them to sell but ended up taking them himself. On two occasions, they caught up with him. The first time they poured boiling water on his arm, causing him serious injuries, and the second time they beat him with a baseball bat. He left town but, over a month later, Austin Bellew turned up at my home in a distressed state and needing money'. She said that he told her that the Scousers had approached him and had told him that they were passing his brother's debt on to him because they couldn't find his brother.
She said that the last time that she saw Austin Bellew was on Christmas Day 2015 wheh he told her that he was in trouble and didn’t know what to do.
At the inquest, Austin Bellew's sister said, 'He is my brother and I want him to know that someone loved him enough to find out what happened. I find it hard to accept it was down to an accident or suicide. Contrary to his chaotic life (of drugs and crime), he was caring, funny and loving'. She also criticised the North Wales Police for not taking statements from their family regarding the circumstances leading up to Austin Bellew's death.
However, the police said that they made considerable enquiries and noted that Austin Bellew had in fact been arrested to prevent a breach of the peace on 11 January 2016 at which time they said that it was clear to them that 'he appeared to be scared and there were suggestions that Scouse drug dealers were after him'.
It was noted that on 21 January 2016 a prison recall was activated after Austin Bellew missed a probation appointment.
The police also said 'We have no evidence to suspect Austin has died as a result of foul play and we haven’t been able to identify anyone able to give us factual evidence to support this', noting that they had had huge problems trying to get hod of his brother.
His body was found six miles off Talacre in North Wales and was pulled out of the sea by the crew of a Hoylake lifeboat on 25 February 2016.
The pathologist said that he thought that Austin Bellew's body might have been in the sea for between five and six weeks. He said, 'There were no obvious marks, no obvious injuries to the neck muscles and no damage or definitive fractures to the hyoid and thyroid horns. It can be quite difficult in a body of decomposed state to identify subtle injuries and marks. There was no evidence he was strangled or the victim of a forearm lock'.
When he was asked whether he thought foul play was possible, the coroner said, 'I don’t think he’s been strangled and I’m as confident as I can be on the evidence I’ve got. There’s always going to be a limitation but that’s as far as I can go'.
The toxicology result revealed that Austin Bellew had very high levels of morphine (from heroin) and cocaine in his system and that he had also taken ecstasy. However, the pathologist added, 'I can’t answer the question as to whether he took them himself or if someone else administered them. Evidence points to Austin at some stage taking and consuming heroin and other drugs and, for whatever reason, he’s ended up in the water incapacitated and drowned. I can’t say where he went in. I couldn’t find anything to suggest anything untoward had happened'.
An open verdict was returned at his inquest.