Ex-PSNI officer drowned despite reaching dry land at Lough Erne

Aerial view of Lough Erne yacht club, from Google
Aerial view of Lough Erne yacht club, from Google

A retired policeman managed to reach dry land after struggling in the water, only to slip back in and drown two hours later.

That was the tragic finding of a coroner on Tuesday, overseeing the inquest into the death of Michael Beattie, which occurred in the run-up to last Christmas.

He was 55, lived in Conlig, between Bangor and Newtownards, and was described by the coroner as having been a company director at the time of his death.

An IT consultancy firm called BEAT Consultancy Ltd was registered at his address, and had been set up in 2015.

According to his LinkedIn account, detailing his business background, he had been in the police from 1981 to 2010, and before that had been educated at Royal School Dungannon.

The incident which led to his death happened sometime late on December 11 or early on December 12, following a visit to Lough Erne Yacht Club.

He was described by the coroner as being a keen sailor, who had a boat he kept at the Lough Erne club.

On the evening of December 11, a Monday, he had been visiting a friend there.

According to the findings of the coroner, Joseph McCrisken, he “consumed some alcohol and had another alcoholic drink aboard his friend’s barge”.

The coroner went on to record: “At approximately 11.15pm, Mr Beattie left his friend to return to his own boat. This was the last time he was seen alive.

“Mr Beattie’s partner raised the alarm the following morning when she did not hear from him.

“Following a short search his body was recovered from the water close to his boat at around 11.30am on December 12, 2017.”

CCTV footage from the yacht club was reviewed.

It “showed Mr Beattie struggling in the water for a period of time before reaching dry land close to where he parked his car,” according to the coroner.

“He remains in that location for approximately two hours looking confused and dazed before eventually slipping back into the water.

“I was told temperatures were close to freezing at the time and there may have been ice in and around the boat which caused Mr Beattie to slip and fall initially.

“A post mortem examination revealed that Mr Beattie had died as a result of drowning in cold water combined with hypothermia.

“A sample of blood was analysed and revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 212mg/L. In the opinion of the pathologist this would have caused a degree of impairment.

“It is clear to me that Mr Beattie was overcome by the freezing conditions and this rendered him unable to properly comprehend the danger he was in and remove himself to safety.”