Leeds Beckett student whose death sparked major police inquiry had suffered tragic accident, inquest finds

Leeds student Harry Loker died from an accidental fall, a coroner has ruled.
Leeds student Harry Loker died from an accidental fall, a coroner has ruled.

A Leeds student who died from head and chest injuries in a garden in Hyde Park had fallen by accident, a coroner's inquest has found.

The death of 21-year-old Leeds Beckett University student Harry Loker, in September last year, sparked a major police inquiry.

A member of the public had found Mr Loker, of St Chad's View, Headingley, collapsed in the front garden of a house in Royal Park Avenue on the morning of September 15, with his head on one of a series of stone boulders surrounding a fire pit.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives were at first concerned that Mr Loker could have been attacked but forensic tests later ruled out this possibility, Wakefield Coroners' Court heard today.

The inquest heard that Mr Loker had been on a night out in the city centre the previous evening and had ended up at the home of a friend, Hannah Butterfield, then 22, in Royal Park Avenue.

She had given him a sleeping bag so he could sleep on the sofa and had gone to her bedroom.

The Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Jaz Khan, said they "may never know" why Mr Loker had later gone outside.

His injuries were said to be consistent with a fall or car accident.

Det Chief Insp Khan said testing of DNA and other evidence ruled out the possibility that a third party had assaulted Mr Loker.

A search of the area for weapons found nothing and no neighbours reported hearing a disturbance, the inquest heard.

Examination of the nearby road and vehicles ruled out the possibility he had been involved in a car accident.

Fingerprint testing and examination of the roof using a drone also ruled out the possibility he had fallen from a window or the roof.

Det Chief Insp Khan said a flight of steps leading up to the front door of the house were "quite steep" and were uneven in height.

He said when leaving the house, the first step had a drop of 16cm but the second had a drop of 21cm, which "you don't expect".

Det Chief Insp Khan also said Mr Loker had been drinking during his evening out.

He said: "He was quite intoxicated. We knew he had been refused entry into a nightclub and Hannah could not recall how they got home. Unfortunately, they were in quite a bit of drink."

Post-mortem testing found alcohol, cannabis and a prescribed anti-depressant in Mr Loker's system.

Det Chief Insp Khan said the investigators' theory was that Mr Loker had left the house by the front door and fallen from the steps, fatally injuring himself.

He said: "There is no suggestion of third-party involvement. The injuries could have been caused by unlocking the front door, stepping out onto these steps. There is an uneven drop and he may have fallen in his intoxicated state.

"It maybe that he's got up and fallen a couple of times. We may never know."

A statement from Mr Loker's family was read to the court.

It said he had been born in Dewsbury and had lived with his family in Oakwood Avenue, Birkenshaw, near Bradford.

He had been very close to his parents and sister and was liked by everyone who knew him, it said.

The statement said: "He had a large circle of friends and was liked by them all. He is sorely missed by everyone and our lives will never be the same again."

Assistant coroner John Hobson concluded that Mr Loker's death was an accident.

He said: "I do find this particular inquest particularly tragic, to see a young man's life lost at this age, and I express my condolences, even in their absence, to his parents."