Open verdict on tragic Leeds pensioner who went missing from Wetherby care home

Jean Jellings

Jean Jellings

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A CORONER recorded an open verdict at an inquest into the death a Leeds pensioner whose body was found in the River Wharfe at Tadcaster six weeks after she went missing from a Wetherby care home.

Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard Wetherby Manor care home staff alerted police just before 10.30am on February 20 2015 after Jean Jellings failed to turn up for breakfast and could not be found.

A major police missing person investigation was launched to trace the 84-year-old widow, who had a history of mental health problems.

Officers investigated CCTV evidence, conducted house to house enquiries, distributed missing person leaflets in Wetherby and searched the River Wharfe for Mrs Jellings, who was the widow of the late Leeds optician Howard Jellings.

The inquest heard a member of the public, who had been walking a dog on the banks of the River Wharfe near the Tower Brewery at Tadcaster, alerted police on March 29 after spotting what was thought to be a body in the river.

Police recovered the body, which was found around five miles away from Wetherby. It was identified as Jean Jellings through DNA evidence.

Forensic pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton told the inquest that, in her opinion, Mrs Jellings’ body would have been in the water from closer to the time she went missing than when she was found.

Dr Bolton, who conducted the post mortem on Mrs Jellings, could not conclude she had drowned and recorded the cause of death as consistent with immersion in water.

Dr Bolton told the inquest: “The most likely scenario is she has died as she has come to be in the water, but the precise mechanism of her death, I don’t know.”
The inquest was told Mrs Jellings, formerly of Scarcroft, north Leeds, had been staying permanently in an independent living section of the Wetherby Manor care home since November 2014.

The inquest heard Mrs Jellings had suffered suicidal thoughts for may years and had been prescribed anti-depressants for anxiety by her GP in December 2014.

Detective Constable Danny Wilkinson, of West Yorkshire Police, told the inquest there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.

Recording an open verdict, Assistant West Yorkshire Coroner John Hobson said he had to be able to positively answer to two questions in order to record a suicide verdict, adding: “Am I satisfied so I’m sure beyond reasonable doubt that she intended to enter the water? And also, am I satisfied so I’m sure beyond reasonable doubt that she intended to take her own life? I cannot find on the evidence I have heard that I’m sure on either of those two matters.”

Mr Hobson added: “There may have been other explanations, that Jean entered the water, but didn’t intend to die. She may have slipped.

“I record as a conclusion that it is open as I cannot find the appropriate standard of proof in relation to suicide.”

After the inquest, Mrs Jellings’ son Andrew, 51, of north Leeds. said: “She was a lovely mother.”

Mr Jellings, who works as a self-employed builder and engineer, said his mother was born and raised in Headingley and moved to Bardsey in north Leeds after marrying Howard Jellings in the early 1950s.

The family later lived in Scarcroft in north Leeds.

Andrew Jellings said his father Howard, who died in 2001, ran the former Owen and Jellings opticians in Leeds city centre in the 1980s.

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