Former soldier drowned after day of drinkingBy Amy Taylor
December 24, 2012
A FORMER soldier, whose body was found in the Basingstoke Canal, died after falling into the water following a day’s heavy drinking, an inquest has heard.
The body of Dion King Mason, from Aldershot, was found on the morning of October 18, and an inquest into his death on December 19 found he had drowned during the night.
Mr Mason, 48, who served for several years as a paratrooper in the British Army, was found to be four times over the legal drink-driving limit when police officers recovered his body from the water behind Brookfield Road.
Already known to police, he was initially identified by a distinctive dragon tattoo on his left arm and a Paras badge and scarring on his stomach, from a previous injury.
His right hand was clenched in a fist, with a handful of grass and leaves inside, suggesting he had tried to pull himself out of the water without success.
His partner, Dawn Stiles, had reported him as a missing person earlier that morning after he failed to return to her flat.
“Someone said they had seen a ‘teenager’ in the canal, and I knew he went down to that area and I had a bad feeling,” she told Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley, sitting at Alton Magistrates’ Court.
The grim discovery was made by Aldershot man Donald Goddard, who had taken an early morning walk to the canal footbridge with his wife to feed the ducks.
“I saw a body lying on the right bank as I looked on to the canal,” said Mr Goddard.
“He was wearing one trainer and one sock and a blue anorak thing. He looked like a 15-year-old.
“The day before the river was sky high, right to the bridge. We had come down there the day before and couldn’t get along because the bridge was flooded.
“It’s very dangerous, that bit of the river. If he sat down on the bridge and slipped when he got up, then he would
have been washed downstream very quickly.”
Mr Mason was an alcoholic, claimed Miss Stiles, and frequently began drinking as soon as he woke up in the morning, often becoming verbally abusive towards her. The day before he was found drowned, she said, he had already drunk three or four beers before going into town around noon.
By the time he returned at 6pm he had been to the Queen’s Hotel with a friend, and had bought beers from an off-licence.
“In the evening he was drinking, smoking and sitting on the floor but seemed to be acting a little odd,” said Miss Stiles. “He was quite drunk and started being abusive to me, which was quite normal for him. At about 9pm he said he was going out, I thought he had had too much to drink and that he shouldn’t leave home but when he decides to do something he will do it.”
He had problems sleeping, she added, and was taking medication, but would often leave the flat to walk by the
canal, ‘perhaps because it was quiet and it was outside’.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Bradley said: “It’s really quite a simple matter. He’s had a good day, drinking heavily and is four times over the limit.
"He had a significant alcohol level which would leave him unsteady, even for a habitual drinker. The sad matter is he has slipped into the river and drowned.”