Tributes to 'wonderful father' found dead in river
Tributes have been paid to a "lovely, popular" man whose body was washed up on the banks of a Devon river, sparking a major police investigation into who he was and how he died.
An extensive police effort was made to identify Clifford John Thorne, known as John to his family and friends, who was found by a dog walker on the Exe Estuary Cycle Trail between Exmouth and Lympstone last July.
It took officers almost seven months to discover the identity of the 67-year-old after extensive work including door-to-door enquiries, forensic work and the production of an e-fit.
Mr Thorne had left his home in Oxfordshire in January 2012. His partner Giulia Grassi explained that he left with financial worries following buying-in to a time share holiday home. He had been working as a caretaker at university accommodation.
Fantastic offer at Swanson Ford, Newton Abbot. 3 Years FREE Servicing and 5 Years Warranty available on your BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA with the AWARD WINNING ECOBOOST ENGINE!!!
Terms: Limited stock available. Only whilst stock lasts
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
On the morning of a meeting with his bank manager, Mr Thorne left to buy a paper but never returned.
Now, an Oxfordshire coroner has returned an "open verdict" because of insufficient evidence to determine the cause of his death.
However, the court heard that the most likely cause of death was dry drowning. In the case of Mr Thorne the court heard how a sudden immersion in cold water, coupled with his intake of alcohol, could have caused the physical reflux which shuts the lungs off from being able to take in air causing a heart attack.
John's partner of 26 years, Ms Grassi, 63, described him as a "much-loved" person. "He was very sociable and friendly," she continued. "He was very kind – he would help everyone, and he worked really hard. He loved travelling around, especially since he got his bus pass.
"He got on so well with all the students, they all really missed him, everyone was worried about him.
"I always used to think about him, wherever he was.
"Finding out he had been dead for six-and-a-half months was the most dreadful thing ever, I thought he was travelling around still.
"I've been so lost without him."
Mr Thorne's son Kelvin, 42, described his dad as being "everyone's friend". "He was loved very much by me and his three grandchildren and he is missed very much – there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him," he continued.
"He was the sort of person who was everyone's friend, he could easily go into a pub for a drink and by the end of the evening be friends with everyone in there.
"As a teenager all my friends had so much respect for him, he was their friend too."
Mr Thorne expressed his disappointment at the inaccuracy of the e-fit.
However both he and Ms Grassi expressed their gratitude to the officers in the investigation and the public's help.
Both family members understood the coroner's verdict.