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Husband vanishes while snorkelling

PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 25 August 2010

A HOLIDAYMAKER who vanished whilst snorkelling during a family holiday in Mexico was found floating off the coast by a fishing boat, an inquest heard.

A HOLIDAYMAKER who vanished whilst snorkelling during a family holiday in Mexico was found floating off the coast by a fishing boat, an inquest heard.

Stephen Howling, 43, of Bedonwell Road, Bexleyheath, left his wife Jane further down the beach while he went in search of more exotic fish in the small town of Puerto Mereles in February this year and was never seen alive again.

The inquest at Southwark Coroner's Court heard last Tuesday how locals spotted the former Royal Mail delivery driver's body floating in the sea on the second day of his holiday, less than an hour after he disappeared.

Mr Howling had already been snorkelling earlier that day but had not see any fishes, so he went further up coast to a little town the couple had been to the previous year.

Jane Howling, 44, began to get concerned as more time passed and about two hours later she finally loaded up the hire car and went on search of her husband on foot.

When she showed the officers her husband's driving licence she immediately knew something was wrong, the court heard.

She told the court: "Even though they were not speaking English I could sense something had happened.

"To be honest I was hoping he had just had an accident and was in the hospital.

"But I must have been sat there for a good hour before a gentleman from the morgue came back and actually confirmed that they had found Stephen's body."

Mexican authorities first reported the Englishman's death as a drowning, the coroner explained.

But Mr Howling actually died as a result of coronary artery disease, a post mortem back in England revealed.

Coroner Shanta Deonarine said: "There was evidence of coronary artery disease and also suggestions that the coronary artery event may have occurred first and caused the death."

She explained to the wife: "Even if you had been there with him, this was not the sort of attack that he would probably have survived.

"I hope that you are able now to put this behind you.

"There was a suggestion that maybe something could have happened in the sea that could have caused his death, but further investigations have shown that it was a natural event."

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.


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