Man suffocated to death after getting stuck down rabbit hole while hunting

June 2, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

A father suffocated and died after getting trapped in a RABBIT HOLE while trying to catch a rabbit, an inquest heard.

Stephen Whinfrey, 50 who died after being trapped in a rabbit hole (Ross Parry / SWNS)

Stephen Whinfrey, 50 who died after being trapped in a rabbit hole (Ross Parry / SWNS)

Stephen Whinfrey, 50, had hunted rabbits for most of his life and used ferrets and dogs to help him catch them.

He died when he went to Squirrel Wood Scout Camp near Doncaster, South Yorks on New Year’s Day this year when he got trapped and died.

His body was found by a member of the public the next day with his bottom half sticking out of the rabbit hole at the beauty spot.

PC Richard Hall told Doncaster Coroner’s Court: “We found a male head first in a hole, only his legs and torso were visible.

“He was at a 45 degree angle, curved around the hole.

“There was a hand coming out of the hole, in between the male’s legs. I could not see the other hand. There were scratch marks on the ground.

“It became obvious that the man was deceased.”

PC Hall said Mr Whinfrey, of Doncaster, South Yorks., had been “wedged in” the hole with “hardly any room at all”.

He had taken off his welly boots and jacket, which were found next to the hole along with two bags containing ferrets, a spade, knives and a net.

Officers also discovered a deda rabbit and a fresh mound of soil next to the hole where he was stuck.

Mr. Whinfrey’s dog had been tied to a tree nearby.

The inquest heard how Mr Whinfrey’s family raised concerns after he did not

appear for a New Year’s Day lunch they organised at 1pm that day and they called police the next day.

Squirrel Wood, Burghwalli, where Stephen Whinfrey, 50 died after being trapped in a rabbit hole (Ross Parry / SWNS)

Squirrel Wood, Burghwalli, where Stephen Whinfrey, 50 died after being trapped in a rabbit hole (Ross Parry / SWNS)

Pathologist Dr Susan Rodgers said death was due to asphyxia.

She said: “It is difficult to say exactly when Mr Whinfrey died. He had probably been dead for some hours by the time he was found.”

The court heard how Mr Whinfrey was unemployed at the time of his death but had previously been a pit worker.

He had previously suffered from mental health problems including psychosis and depression, for which he was taking regular medication.

His sister, Nadine Whinfrey-Gibson, told the inquest: “About ten years ago he started getting help. He took all his medication regularly, and kept all of his appointments.

“Once he was diagnosed he just got on with his life.

“We last saw him on New Year’s Eve. He said he was going to go rabbiting the next day and I suggested he should take cousins and an uncle as the weather had been bad and when they’d been out the previous week I knew they’d struggled to carry everything.

“He was a very giving man – he was always seeing what he could do for other people.

“We’d always have a laugh with him. He was very content with his life. He never expected much in terms of material goods.

“As long as he had his dog, his ferrets and his garden, he was happy.”

Dr Susan Rodgers, who carried out the post-mortem, added a toxicological screening found alcohol and amphetamine in Mr Whinfrey’s blood and, despite it being impossible to say how much of either substance was present, they may have affected his decision-making process.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, assistant coroner Mark Beresford said:

“Misadventure occurs when a person undertakes a task that goes unexpectedly wrong.

“That is what happened in this case.”

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