Police renew appeal in Leeds canal death riddle

Jan Swindlehurst.
Jan Swindlehurst.
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Detectives today launched a fresh appeal to trace a mystery witness seen climbing out of a canal as a seriously ill man drowned yards away.

The unidentified man was spotted in the Leeds Liverpool Canal where 61-year-old Jan Swindlehurst lay in the water alongside his mobility scooter.

An inquest yesterday heard that retired welder Mr Swindlehurst, who suffered severe lung and heart disease, may have had a coughing fit before plunging into the canal on July 16 last year.

Two men walking along the towpath told detectives they saw a man climbing out of the water, who walked away as he saw them approach.

The two men dragged Mr Swindlehurst, of Borrowdale Close, Armley, from the water close to Wyther Lane, Armley, and called the emergency services.

He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

A post mortem report gave the cause of death as drowning along with heart and lung disease.

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff recorded an open verdict.

A number of people were arrested and questioned in relation to the incident.

Speaking to the YEP after the inquest, Detective Superintendent Mark Ridley, of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiries Team (HMET), said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to renew the appeal to trace the man who was seen in the water or for anyone who believes they might know who he was to contact us.

“The towpath is extremely narrow and he and Mr Swindlehurst could have collided. It may have been something more sinister, where someone was trying to rob Mr Swindlehurst, although no property was missing from him. Or it could have been that someone was trying to recover him from the water but for whatever reason decided not to remain at the scene when other people arrived.”

The man was described as white, around 30 years old with short, dark hair, a thin face, stubble and wearing a black fleece and blue jeans.

Call police on 01924 334 741.

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