'Tragic' death of Yorkshire-born self-made millionaire who drowned in Barbados

A Yorkshire-born self-made millionaire who drowned in Barbados early last year may have consumed illicit substances and alcohol prior to his death, an inquest heard.

Mark Smith, who lived in Whirlow, near Sheffield, was staying at a villa at St James in Barbados and was last seen entering the sea at Sunset Crest on the morning of January 31, 2021.

His body was subsequently recovered and washed up along the beach at Paynes Bay on February 2 and was then repatriated to the UK.

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Mr Smith had an estimated net worth of £6.8 million, having made his fortune in the construction industry.

Mark Smith was a self-made millionaireMark Smith was a self-made millionaire
Mark Smith was a self-made millionaire

He had reportedly moved to Barbados from his £1.2 million home in Sheffield after separating from his wife, Debbie and was said to be living with a new partner.

At an inquest held at Sheffield Coroner's Court on Tuesday, March 15, Senior Coroner David Urpeth said three post-mortem examinations were carried out to determine the cause of death of the 61-year-old.

All three post-mortem examinations reported that there was no evidence of any suspicious injuries and that he had no significant medical illnesses.

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However, a toxicology report obtained from the second post mortem revealed that there was a presence of metabolised cocaine and some ethanol, meaning there was alcohol presence.

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He said: “Toxicology pointed to some possible use of illicit substances, although alcohol may also be of relevance. The likelihood of drowning can be increased if the individual has consumed illicit substances or alcohol prior to death.”

He also noted that the coroner's court and the family had worked to obtain a toxicology report from Barbados, but despite extensive efforts, this “has not been forthcoming” and would result in further delays.

Mr Urpeth concluded the death as accidental and described the incident as a 'tragedy', and offered his condolences to Mr Smith's ex-wife, Debbie and their daughter, Chloe, who were present at the inquest.

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He said: “The fact remains that Mr Smith was otherwise fit and healthy and his death is a tragedy for him and for those that he leaves behind.

“I would therefore like to offer my condolences to you both as well as any other family and friends who are simply not able to be here today.

“I know that you've worked tirelessly alongside my officer to try to get as much information to assist me and I'm grateful for that and I hope that today will have provided some understanding of what's been done and will hopefully provide a little bit of comfort.”

The father-of-two was perhaps best known for his involvement with the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team, having been part of a three-man consortium which briefly ran the club in 2001 before losing an ownership contest.

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He was also listed as a director of seven companies including the Rotherham-based freight firm Keyair Ltd, where his son Oliver is also among the directors.

Mr Smith had reportedly been warned not to venture into the water by fellow beach-goers in St James, due to dangerous conditions on the day he disappeared.

A witness said he had been hit by a large wave and screamed for help, but could not be saved.