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Josh Clayton Inquest Adjourned

 Following the dramatic adjournment and suspension of the inquest into the death of Josh Clayton on Wednesday we have issued the following statement on behalf of Josh’s family

Statement issued by Crosse + Crosse Solicitors LLP on behalf of the family of Joshua Clayton following the inquest into his death at Plymouth Coroner’s Court on 9-11 January 2017

On Wednesday we outlined to the Coroner in considerable detail the serious concerns Josh’s family had about the adequacy of the police investigation into his disappearance and death. His family believes that it was not appropriate to treat Josh’s disappearance as simply a missing person’s inquiry and consider that third party involvement was likely. There were a number of lines of investigation, which were never pursued. Evidence was not secured; other evidence was destroyed. Critical witnesses were either not interviewed at all, or were not interviewed as fully as they might have been; it remains unclear why that was so, particularly in relation to senior figures within Tresco Estates. Until Tuesday, the evidential position was that Josh had attended a party with somewhere between 40 and 60 other people present; although many saw him arrive and many saw him when he was at the party, apparently not a single person saw him leave.

Josh’s family waited anxiously for this inquest to take place. Quite simply, they wanted to discover what had happened to Josh. The inquest process became their only means to do so because the police investigation had failed them.  Very unusually, there were four procedural hearings prior to the inquest itself in which the family consistently set out their dissatisfaction with the police investigation and the further lines of inquiry that they considered should be pursued.  It is a matter of great regret that those lines of inquiry were not followed up as they should have been.

Some might consider that the statement issued by the police following the inquest that they were only made aware of new evidence at the inquest is overly simplistic. Although what Mr Thomas said in Court was new evidence, his evidence was given in response to questions prepared on behalf of the family nearly three months ago. Quite simply had that line of inquiry been pursued prior to the inquest then the inquest would never have commenced, as it would have become clear very quickly that other evidence was required.

From the outset of our involvement in this case almost 12 months ago, it seemed an extraordinary omission that Tristan Dorrien-Smith had never been interviewed by the police about this matter. This issue was raised repeatedly at the pre inquest hearings. It was confirmed by the police’s legal representatives on more than one occasion that there was no statement from Mr Dorrien-Smith in existence and that he had not been interviewed. It is difficult to reconcile Tresco Estate’s apparent assertion that Tristan Dorrien-Smith has made a statement to the police with what the police have said about this previously.

Tresco Estates also apparently maintain that Tristan Dorrien-Smith knew nothing about this inquest hearing, a contention which the family finds difficult to accept. On the 16th September 2016 we sent to the Coroner details of those areas which we wanted to question Mr Dorrien-Smith about.  At a procedural hearing on the 31st October an order was made by the Coroner that Mr Dorrien-Smith should attend the inquest and as far as we are aware, Mr Dorrien-Smith was notified of this date by the Coroner. On the 23rd December we were notified by the Coroner’s office that Mr Dorrien-Smith would be unable to attend because he was “abroad”. It is understood by the family that Mr Dorrien-Smith had been in Tresco over the Christmas and New Year period but by 9 January was in Majorca on a cruise. The family struggles to understand how Tresco Estates can maintain that he or they knew nothing about this inquest. Contrary to some reports, it was never the case that Robert Dorrien-Smith was going to give evidence at the inquest.

As we said in Court on Wednesday what is urgently required is a robust and thorough re-examination of the circumstances surrounding Josh’s death. Unfortunately Devon and Cornwall Constabulary have failed to investigate this matter properly when they have had ample opportunity to do so and as a result they have lost the family’s confidence to investigate the matter effectively now. The family’s view is that a force other than Devon and Cornwall should handle this new investigation so that matters are looked at completely objectively, impartially and from a fresh perspective. They have instructed me to write to The Chief Constable about that. Any new investigation needs to be untarnished by the errors which have already been made.  The family would hope that the Chief Constable will, after due reflection, consider that it would be appropriate for this investigation to be assigned to another force, which can re-investigate this matter without fear or favour. The family looks forward to receiving confirmation that this will happen.

This has been a difficult time for Josh’s family and they have asked that their privacy be respected. They very much hope that the widespread coverage of the inquest into his death will encourage others to come forward with any information they hold about the events surrounding Josh’s disappearance, however insignificant they may consider their evidence to be.

Josh’s mother Tracey Clayton commented that “Josh was a very loving, caring and selfless man.  He loved his family & friends. He was also much loved and is greatly missed by his family and many friends. There was evidence at the inquest that it was Josh who devised the buddy system to ensure no one was ever alone walking home from a night out etc. There was also evidence that it was completely out of character for him to have left a party without saying goodbye to anyone; that simply wasn’t his style. His jacket was left behind in The Shed where the party took place and it was only recovered after his disappearance the following afternoon. He was very friendly and open and he simply wouldn’t have slipped away without letting his friends know unless something extraordinary had happened”.

Josh’s family wishes to place on record their deep gratitude and thanks to all members of the various search teams, most notably Cornwall Search and Rescue for their diligence and care in undertaking the search for Josh.

Richard Stevinson

Solicitor acting for the family of Joshua Clayton

13 January 2017

 

 

Crosse + Crosse are happy to provide support and advice in relation to any Inquest, Clinical Negligence or personal injury matters. Please feel free to contact a member of our Personal Injury Team on 01392 207603.

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