Hornchurch schoolboy Paddy Dear fell to his death while suffering from an infection

16-year-old Paddy Dear

16-year-old Paddy Dear - Credit: Archant

A Hornchurch teenager whose body was found at the bottom of cliffs in Pembrokeshire had an infection that could have caused disorientation and confusion, an inquest into his death heard on Friday, March 3.

Paddy Dear, 16, was on a geography field trip at Dale Fort, when he died in March 2016.

His inquest in Milford Haven heard how the keen sportsman had acute tonsillitis and a group A streptococcal infection when he died.

A pathologist’s report said the infection could cause ‘”disorientation, confusion, unsteadiness and an inability to comprehend dangerous situations”.

Some of Paddy’s school friends, from Campion School, Hornchurch, told police he had been having trouble sleeping at Dale Fort.

One explained how Paddy hadn’t managed to get to sleep until around 4am one night, and slept on the minibus to and from a number of field trips.

He went to the toilet at Dale Fort at around 5.30pm on March 17, but didn’t return, and a search began at around 6pm when he wasn’t at dinner.

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Judith Curry, who lives in the lane to Dale Fort, told the inquest that she was gardening on the evening Paddy was reported missing.

She saw him on the sea wall opposite her home.

“He was pacing up and down,” she said.

“I would say not say he was in control. He was agitated.”

Christine Millican, head of centre, at Dale Fort for the Field Studies Council, told the inquest that the rooms, grounds, and jetty beach were searched.

The police were then called at 7pm and the coastguard and RNLI were called in later that evening to assist with the search.

She told the inquest that visiting students were “warned of the danger of the cliffs” around the fort and that they “were out of bounds”.

But she said the Field Studies Council, which runs Dale Fort, has strict policies and protocols for centre staff to follow when a student goes missing.

Paddy’s parents, Michael and Patrica Dear, asked Mrs Millican why no-one was assigned to watch and wait at the fort’s gates while the search was carried out.

“Nothing we do today’s going to bring Paddy back,” said Mrs Dear.

‘But had someone been put at the gate, it could have made a significant difference.”

Mrs Millican responded: “We are very aware of safeguarding issues. I don’t think that locking those gates would have made a different outcome to the really awful and tragic events that took place last March.

“We will certainly consider all issues raised here and look at what we can do if this awful situation was to happen again.”

Pembrokeshire Coroner Mark Layton recorded a narrative conclusion that Paddy died following a fall from height while suffering from group A streptococcal septacaemia.