Date: 4 Aug 1949
Oliver Duro Hatcher was found dead with his head partly submerged in a greenhouse water tank.
An open verdict was returned. When the coroner returned the verdict he said that it was obvious to him after inspecting the water tank that no one in their normal health could have been drowned in the tank as it would have been a simple matter to escape.
Oliver Hatcher had lived at a property in The Leys, Evesham and had worked for the previous 17 years at The Nurseries in Wickhamford.
At the inquest, evidence was heard stating that it was not unusual for normal, healthy people to faint from heat and that it was possible that Oliver Hatcher had become overcome in the heat of the greenhouse and fallen in.
The coroner noted that there was no evidence to suggest that Oliver Hatcher had any reason to be in close association with the tank at the time or that he might have been drinking from it, noting that the water was dirty and that no one would think of drinking from it or even washing their hands in it.
The coroner noted that an alternative theory was that Oliver Hatcher had drowned himself in the tank, stating, 'I have been told that this would be physically possible in the tank, but there is no evidence at all to suggest that he did do it. He was a man who had no troubles. I therefore feel after careful consideration that I cannot determine definitely whether his death occurred by accident or not'.
Oliver Hatcher's son said that he found Oliver Hatcher with his face submerged in the water tank at about 7.40pm on the Thursday 4 August 1949. He said that Oliver Hatcher was a very cheerful man and had been looking forward to his holidays in September.
The owner of the nursery said that Oliver Hatcher had been employed by him and his father for the last 17 years and that he was a very conscientious worker. He noted that the water tank was 26 inches high and 29 inches in diameter.
When a policeman arrived, he attempted artificial respiration but without success.
A professor at the West Midlands Forensic Science Laboratory in Birmingham said that Oliver Hatcher's death was due to drowning. He added that there were several superficial injuries on his head and body, which he said were indubitably caused after death.
He also said that there was no evidence of foul play or anything that could have caused him to collapse into the tank.
However, he added that it was not uncommon for perfectly normal people to faint from some unusual effort or from excessive heat.
When the coroner asked the professor whether he had drawn any conclusions from the position of Oliver Hatcher's body, the professor replied, 'It is quite easy to explain his position and the absence of injury on a theory of deliberation, but it is extremely difficult to explain it on a theory of a slump fall. There would have been more injuries’.
After hearing the evidence the open verdict was returned.
see Gloucestershire Echo - Tuesday 09 August 1949