An elderly Spalding woman with dementia who went missing, sparking a huge search operation, died as a result of going into very cold water.
The inquest of Valerie Ann Bycraft was reported on by Nigel Chapman for Lincolnshire Reporter.
Scores of members of the public – many who had no connection to Valerie’s family and friends – joined police in scouring the Fulney area for her last March. Appeals for help and images of her were shared hundreds of times on social media.
Sadly, the 78-year-old’s body was found the day after she had been reported missing, in a water-filled ditch not far from the speed camera on the A16 Spalding bypass.
A resumed inquest into Mrs Bycraft’s death, held at Boston Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, heard that it was not as a result of drowning. She had been found on her back in the water and a pathologist said that being immersed in very cold water had brought on cardiac arrhythmia.
Det Insp David Rimmer, of Lincolnshire Police, told the hearing a call had been received reporting Mrs Bycraft missing from her Thames Road home at 10.14am on March 18. It was quickly identified as a high-risk case with lots of manpower and resources, including a police helicopter and drones, deployed.
Mrs Bycraft, a retired landworker and factory worker, had last been seen at home at 6.40pm the previous night. A carer had paid two visits to her that evening and both times locked the door as she left and put the key in a key safe.
In written evidence, the carer said on both occasions when she arrived Mrs Bycraft had been standing at the open front door, which was not normal.
“There was nothing unusual about her apart from her being stood at the door with the door open,” she said.
Det Insp Rimmer said CCTV showed Mrs Bycraft spotted sitting on a wall near Acacia Stores in Acacia Avenue at 11.01pm and a bit further down the street at 11.45pm.
The final footage came to light after her body was found and showed her just after midnight on Low Road, which leads towards the A16 bypass.
Family friend Steven Bertolaso had seen Mrs Bycraft minutes earlier in the Chestnut Avenue area but knew her son Timothy lived in that area so did not think it odd. He called police with the sighting as soon as he heard she was missing the following day.
There were no other confirmed sightings of Mrs Bycraft and it’s believed that she died that night, although her body wasn’t discovered until about 9.30pm on March 19.
Assistant coroner Marianne Johnson gave a narrative conclusion, saying that Mrs Bycraft had died from immersion in water.
She told family members present: “She was well supported by all of the family. From all the evidence it’s clear that it’s a very tight-knit and close family.
“There were a lot of good friends and family who joined members of the public willing to go and help. They should all be congratulated, along with the police. It was a very difficult time for you and to get that level of support for you, I think, was fantastic.”
Speaking after the hearing, the family said: “We would like to thank all of the members of the public and police for what they did. Everybody rallied around to help.”