Mum says officers let her down when searching for son in Gosport

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A MUM has told an inquest into her son’s death of the horrifying moment she found his body.

Michael Stratton drowned in July this year in Gosport.

The 26-year-old was last seen in the water at the Jackie Spencer bridge after going there with friends on Saturday, July 23. The inquest heard the bridge is a popular site with young people jumping off it into the water below, which runs into the Solent.

The first day of the hearing, held yesterday in Portsmouth, heard Michael’s mum Helen was the person who found his body at around 8am on Sunday, July 24. She was unhappy the search had been called off the night before as light faded.

Ms Stratton told coroner David Horsley: ‘I went to the bridge on Sunday at 8am to see what searches the police were doing but no-one was there.

‘I walked on the bridge and there was Michael in the water and I knew it was him. I was with Michael’s sisters and we were all screaming.’

Police and the coastguard were told Michael, from Gosport, was missing at around 6.17pm and conducted a search around the bridge.

But when light started to fade, the coroner heard the search was called off until the next morning.

Ms Stratton said to investigating officer Detective Inspector Roger Wood that officers did not do enough in looking for Michael and for witnesses.

‘First light is at 6am and yet no-one was looking for him,’ she said.

‘I don’t think you did enough for Michael and I feel quite let down.’

In response, Det Insp Wood said: ‘We did have officers down at the bridge speaking to people and we did do door-to-door enquiries.

‘The officers starting the search had just come on shift at 8am.’

During the inquest, witness statements read out said that Michael had gone to the bridge with his friends and they had all been drinking and smoking cannabis. The group were jumping off the bridge into the water below when Michael was last seen.

In their statements, his friends said they were not concerned about Michael’s whereabouts when he went missing and they left the bridge about an hour after they last saw him.

One of the friends, Steven Mills, said it was not until officers came to speak to them later at a party that he realised how serious Michael’s disappearance could have been.

He said: ‘I know it sounds ridiculous but I just didn’t realise.

‘If I thought he was in danger I would not have gone to the party.’

(Proceeding)