A schoolboy who had been on a night out with friends was heard calling for his father as he slowly froze to death.
The following morning at 7.30am, Leon Cudworth was discovered lying on his back dead from hypothermia, his back door key lying next to his body.
Witnesses reported hearing the 15 year-old crying and calling out “Dad, Dad,” but even though the police were called, they did not search the area and Leon was left undiscovered and dying from the cold.
Temperatures on the night Leon died were just 3ºC; paramedics attempted to revive him the following morning, but pronounced him dead at 7.56am. Later tests showed that Leon had succumbed to hypothermia and the alcohol his body contained was more than twice the legal limit for driving.
An inquest into Leon’s death heard that the boy telephoned his father at about 11.30pm on the night of his death, telling him he would be home about midnight. However, a neighbour informed the hearing that she awoke at about 2am after hearing noises in the unlit alleyway that runs along the back of her property.
Tracy Royal described hearing several banging noises: “It was like a punching bang and I woke up. It was quite loud. I heard a young boy and he was shouting ‘dad dad.’ At first I thought it was someone who had been locked out, left their keys and been locked out and trying to get in. I did get up and look through the blinds and I could still hear the shouting he was crying and sounded tired. I got up again to have a look at about 2.40am and looked out the window again but I didn’t see anything. I thought he had got in the house. I felt awful because I could have phoned the police.”
Another neighbour, Sarah Collins, did telephone the police: “I heard a screaming or shouting noise. I sleep with my bedroom window open so it was quite clear. Originally I thought it was some animals like foxes screeching. It carried on and carried on it sounded like a person. Screaming and screeching but also like mumbling noises, it sounded like a couple of people. That continued for quite a while and it was about 2am. I got up out of bed went downstairs and made a drink. I got back in bed after about 10 minutes and I could still hear it. At that point I phoned the police. I was concerned that somebody was being attacked – the volume and intensity of the noise and the length of time it was going on. It’s not unusual to hear noises but unusual to hear noises of that nature. It was pretty consistent at that time. I had looked out at the window but couldn’t see anything.’’
Sarah said the police arrived between 5 and 10 minutes later: “I think there were two I think one was in the car. One got out with the torch and I think one was in the car. He didn’t really go far. He stayed quite close to the car. I know that he only looked at the land directly behind.”
PC Steven Norris who searched the area after receiving Sarah Collins’s phone call said: “With hindsight we should have extended the search. We should have done more. What we did at the time, I thought it was sufficient.”
The inquest continues.