'Mystery' surrounds death of Southsea man, 84, found dead in home after being taunted by youths

A CORONER said ‘mystery’ surrounds the death of a man who was discovered dead inside his house - sparking a police investigation.

Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 2:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 9:51 pm

Anthony Berry, 84, was found by a neighbour at his Manners Road home, Southsea, on the morning of November 8, 2019, having been there ‘some time’.

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Body discovered in Southsea

His back door was wide open with a window pane smashed and locks broken, leading to questions over his death.

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Suspicions had further been aroused after Mr Berry had suffered a fall inside his house on October 19 after a row with teenagers.

The inquest was told how Mr Berry had called his dentist on October 22 to cancel an appointment after saying he had broken his leg.

Despite this, the court heard there was no evidence he had sought medical assistance.

Following the altercation, police arrested two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old from Portsmouth on suspicion of manslaughter before all three were released from custody under investigation.

At Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, Det Con Emma Roberts told the inquest no charges were brought against the teenagers over Mr Berry’s death after a lack of evidence.

Police had found two sets of fingerprints in the house - belonging to Mr Berry and one of the youths who had helped Mr Berry inside after a row. ‘We are aware one of the youths came back in to help Mr Berry,’ she said, explaining the reason for the fingerprints being in the house.

Area coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp asked: ‘There was nothing the youths did to make them responsible for Mr Berry’s death?’

‘Yes, that’s correct,’ Det Con Roberts said.

She added: ‘There was no causal link between the fall he had and his death.’

The inquest heard Mr Berry died of ‘hypothermia complicating a right femoral neck fracture and ischaemic heart disease’.

Home Office pathologist Dr Russell Delany confirmed there was a left hip fracture but there was ‘nothing to explain what had happened’.

The inquest heard from neighbours, who revealed there had been ongoing incidents involving the ‘volatile’ Mr Berry.

Retired police sergeant Colin Towler, who lived next door to the deceased, said he was alerted by a neighbour that Mr Berry’s back door was open on November 8 before going to investigate after climbing over the fence.

Upon entering the house, he spotted Mr Berry on the floor in the dining room. ‘His head was back and his eyes were open. I could see he had been there for some time.’

He said the room was in a ‘terrible state’ and thought it was ‘suspicious’ the back door was ajar with windows smashed. No items were taken, though.

Mr Towler revealed there were numerous incidents involving Mr Berry over the three years before his death including where he would start arguments with people on the street.

‘The youths would knock on his door and shout abuse and then he would go out and start to argue with them,’ he said.

He added: ‘They would call him a paedophile and say “come on then” and get him to try and attack them.

‘They did all they could to make his life a misery.’

But the witness added that Mr Berry would also ‘instigate arguments’ and was a ‘cantankerous, bitter old man’ who was ‘lonely’.

Neighbour Clive Brown, who used to invite Mr Berry over for tea, said: ‘He would upset people. I saw him be verbally aggressive. I thought he might upset the wrong person.’

Ms Rhodes-Kemp, recording a verdict of accidental death, said Mr Berry’s death was a ‘mystery’.

‘There was no evidence of a robbery (with no items stolen) or intrusion or fingerprints at the back door to suggest anyone had come in.

‘It is a complete mystery over the door (being opened and smashed) and it is unclear when the fracture occurred.

‘So the only safe conclusion is accidental death.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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