Open verdict on Westward Ho! beach death

The body of Donna Martin was discovered on Westward Ho! beach.

The body of Donna Martin was discovered on Westward Ho! beach. - Credit: Archant

Coroner confirms Westward Ho! woman died of drowning

A HOMELESS woman found dead on Westward Ho! beach by a dog walker had been leading a ‘double life’, an inquest heard today (Wednesday).

Donna May Martin, 31, had not told her parents that she had lost her job as a care nurse and was sleeping rough in her Vauxhall Corsa.

She was discovered at around 9.30am on January 12, half way between the lifeguard hut slipway and estuary mount.

Returning an open verdict, coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland confirmed that Ms Martin, who was unable to swim, had drowned. But said she was not satisfied as to how she came to be in the sea in the first place.

Detective Sergeant Adam Bond of Barnstaple CID said in a police statement that it was most likely that she took her own life by walking into the water or that she had suffered a medical episode and collapsed while walking on the beach, and had been taken away by the tide.


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Ms Martin had lived in Westward Ho! since 2006, when she moved to the area from Sidcup in Kent.

In July 2012, she was followed by her parents, who wanted to be closer to her after she had endured a spell in hospital and fell behind with her rent on a flat in Ridgeway Court.

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Ms Martin had a CT scan after collapsing in 2001. She was described as ‘very thin and anorexic looking’ by the dog walker who found her body.

Her post mortem did not rule out the possibility of her having epilepsy.

Dr Earland said she had lost her job as a care nurse in March 2012 and had been sleeping rough in her car after leaving her flat in August.

Abby Mandeville, a rough sleeper outreach co-ordinator, said she had met with Ms Martin in December 2012 after responding to a call from the post mistress at Westward Ho! Post Office, but said she was ‘difficult to converse with’ and had refused help.

Ms Mandeville also said in a statement that Ms Martin ‘smelt stale’ but was hoping to move back to Kent and had a house share lined up.

DS Bond’s statement also referred to a traffic accident, where a neighbour’s car was damaged on January 9, as a ‘significant event’, as there was no further contact with her after agreeing to pay for the damage she caused.

The coroner concluded that she was satisfied that Ms Martin was homeless and jobless, but was not satisfied with how she came to be in the sea.

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