Retired officer, 89, drowned in his garden pond

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RETIRED naval commander Jonah Whetstone drowned in his garden pond just days after his wife passed away.

The 89-year-old was found dead in the garden of his home in Victoria Avenue, Hayling Island.

Ten days earlier his wife Rosemary, 84, died suddenly of a heart attack.

An inquest into Mr Whetstone’s death at Portsmouth Guildhall heard that he had had a problem with alcoholism since the 1950s but had been sober for 18 months before his death.

He suffered from depression and in 2004 he attempted to take his own life but his son Anthony found him in time for paramedics to save him.

Mr Whetstone, 55, who lived with his father, said: ‘He came out of that but he did continue to have bouts of acute depression but would pull out of it.

‘He was down about my mum, we all were.’

Mr Whetstone left his father watching television at 6pm on March 18, while he went to pick up his girlfriend from Newhaven.

They did not arrive home until the early hours of March 19 and found Mr Whetstone’s key in the front door, although that wasn’t unusual.

Mr Whetstone told Coroner David Horsley that his father had become confused in recent years and would often leave the television on or get up in the middle of the night looking for his dogs, who had died.

He added: ‘He had a problem with sleep. He would watch Newsnight and then be up again at 3am. I would often get up and see him reading the paper.

‘He would have this problem that he was going to catch a bus at 3am. He would get dressed, go to the seafront and someone would bring him back.’

The couple went out early the next morning and assumed Mr Whetstone senior was also out.

But they began to worry when they got home in the evening to find his bed still had not been made. They found Mr Whetstone’s body fully clothed, wearing a scarf, at around 6pm tangled in netting in the garden pond.

Mr Whetstone said in the past his mother had told him his father had slipped into the pond while trying to prune trees on a number of occasions but had always been able to pull himself out.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Whetstone, who was Commanding Officer of the Dockyard from 1966 to 1969, to have been healthy and no trace of alcohol or medication was found in his system.

Mr Horsley said it would be impossible to say whether Mr Whetstone intended to take his own life or it was a tragic accident. He recorded an open verdict.