Intoxicated dad drowned in front of his son while ‘trying to impress him’

A dad had been drinking when he drowned in front of his son, who he was "trying to impress".

Lee Ainsley went underwater while swimming across a large pond behind a housing estate in Radcliffe on April 5, 2020, and "never came back up" despite his panicked son's attempts at rescue.

The 54-year-old's body was found after an extensive search operation by police, firefighters and paramedics which lasted more than four hours, Manchester Evening News reports.

The inquest into the father-of-two's death at Rochdale Coroners Court on Monday revealed Lee and his adult son Dwayn Sutherland went to the beauty spot and sat on a bench by the lodge to talk at around 1pm that afternoon.

Lee had long struggled with alcohol addiction, and though he had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings over the years the problem worsened after his marriage fell apart.

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He'd been drinking heavily before heading to the lodge, with a post mortem showing there was three times the legal drink drive limit in his body.

There was evidence Dwayn had also been drinking before seeing his dad, added Assistant Coroner for Manchester North, Julie Robertson.

During the meeting, Lee told Dwayn he could swim all the way across the pond.

"He said 'I bet I could swim that' and started to take his boots off," Dwayn told police following the incident, which then became evidence read out in court.

"I said 'don't be stupid, you're off your head.' He entered into the water and started to swim to the other side. I wasn't sure if he was a strong swimmer."

Raymond Catherall, the carer for Lee's mother Pauline, stumbled on the pair and also tried to stop Lee from swimming.

"Lee said, 'I'll show you how fit I am', I said 'don't do that, you could drown,'" Raymond told police.

Dwayn pulled out his phone to film his dad's stunt, as Lee "confidently" swam to the centre of the lodge. He was swimming so well that Raymond decided to leave the scene.

But around 10 feet from the embankment on the far side of the water, Lee disappeared.

"All of a sudden, his head just went under the water and I couldn't see him," said Dwayn, who jumped into the water to try and save his dad.

"I tried to look for him but I could see or feel him. I was searching for around four or five minutes, then I called the emergency services."

No body was recovered until 7.30pm, when Lee was found in the water and pronounced dead.

The post mortem found he had died by drowning, and it's believed he lost muscular coordination due to the cold water and alcohol in his system.

Lee had suffered with depression since 2013 and had spoken about suicide before, but it's not believed this was his intention when he waded into the water.

Amphetamines were found in his blood although it's not believed they contributed to his death.

"It was initially seen as something fun to do with an element of bravado, showing off in front of his son," Ms Robertson said.

Lee's death was concluded to be an accident by the coroner, who said: "While there has been mention of Lee's state of mind, having talked about previous attempts to end his own life, it doesn't feature in the circumstances of what happened here."

Addressing the family, Ms Robertson added: "I can't imagine how difficult it is for you as a family to move on from this. I'm sure you have many questions that the evidence doesn't answer, but I hope this process has given some answers.

"It is such a tragedy."

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