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Open conclusion at inquest on death of missing Alex Holland of Deal


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A coroner was unable to find out why a man, missing for three months, ended up dead in a ditch.

A post mortem could not confirm the exact cause of Alex Holland's death, an inquest heard.

Alex Holland: his death remains a mystery
Alex Holland: his death remains a mystery

There were no signs of violence on the body, no evidence that it might be suicide and although cocaine and alcohol were found in his system these were not thought to be contributory factors.

Joanne Andrews, area coroner for North East Kent, gave an open conclusion at the hearing on Monday.

She said: "I have no evidence to conclude how he came to be in the ditch.

"There is no indication of third party involvement, police say the death is not suspicious and there is no evidence to reach a conclusion of death by suicide.

"I simply don't know how he came to be in that ditch."

Alex's mum Rachel Holland says she was pleased with the open verdict
Alex's mum Rachel Holland says she was pleased with the open verdict

Mr Holland, 27, went missing from his parent's home in Delane Road, Deal, on the night of November 28 last year and his body was found in the water at nearby Pinnock Wall in Hacklinge on February 17.

The latter date was officially recorded as his date of death.

A post mortem examination classed his death as unascertained, in particular finding no obvious signs of violence.

A toxicology check found only small amounts of alcohol and cocaine, the inquest at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone was told.

Mr Holland, a delivery driver who worked in Dover, was living with his parents after being separated from his wife.

Alex Holland's body was found in water at Hacklinge after 81 days of him being missing
Alex Holland's body was found in water at Hacklinge after 81 days of him being missing

Det Sgt Martin Marenghi told the hearing, via video link, that Mr Holland was reported missing by his mother Rachel Holland just before 7.30pm on November 29 after he had not been seen since 9pm the day before.

Attempts to contact him by both his family and police via mobile phone were fruitless.

The car he was using, a courtesy vehicle while his own was being repaired, was found in Jubilee Road, Worth where his marital home was.

A search was made within a 500 metre radius of that area with the help of a police helicopter, which arrived just before dawn on November 30. That was also used to scan over Sandwich Bay and the English Channel.

The hunt was aided by the Kent Search and Rescue charity and drones and sniffer dogs were also used.

Alex Holland with his mum Rachel
Alex Holland with his mum Rachel

Kent Police alerted the media, with an appeal to find him, just before noon that day and local hospitals were contacted by police to see if he had been admitted to any of them.

Other searches included one on December 18, in the Worth area, using police on foot and dogs.

House-to-house enquiries followed that and residents with camera doorbells were particularly asked for help.

There had been two reported sightings of Mr Holland, at The Strand in Walmer on December 2 via CCTV and another via a call from a member of the public in Ramsgate two days later.

Both proved to be cases of mistaken identity.

Alex Holland's body was found in water by Hacklinge pumping station
Alex Holland's body was found in water by Hacklinge pumping station

Then in January, psychic Mary Lawton Johnson, claimed she told officers where to search for Alex.

However, shortly after noon on February 17 a couple walking their dog at Sandwich Road, Hacklinge, saw a body face down in water.

Police went to the scene, near a pumping station, and investigated but DS Marenghi said there was no indication of third party involvement at the scene.

Mr Holland's father, Mark, asked DS Marenghi why the search was not extended.

DS Marenghi said the search team had been guided by special advisers in missing people hunts. He added that if Mr Holland's body had been earlier underwater in the ditch it would obviously have been harder to find.

A GP report said that Mr Holland had an anxiety and depression disorder but had no suicidal thoughts.

"An open verdict keeps options open..."

After the hearing Mr Holland's mother, Rachel Holland, told KentOnline: "We are very pleased that it was an open verdict because that keeps options open.

"We're are considering our next step.

"We think that there was third party involvement and we won't be convinced otherwise.

"For one thing it was shown that the levels of cocaine and alcohol were not fatal."

Mrs Holland was also satisfied that this was not suicide as her son would never have left behind his two daughters, aged four and eight, and there had been no suicide note.

Alex Holland's parents Mark and Rachel Holland and his sisters Louise and Victoria just after the hearing
Alex Holland's parents Mark and Rachel Holland and his sisters Louise and Victoria just after the hearing

The family thinks someone was behind what happened to Mr Holland and that his death my be have been caused by foul play, as he had left the house at Delane Road that night with no coat in late November.

He also had no mobile phone, so no torch in the dark, and only with sliders as footwear, which are like sandals.

The family has complained to the police about its handling of the case.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Kent Police have received a complaint regarding the actions taken to search for Alex Holland.

"In order to ensure the complaint is looked into fully, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

The force had earlier said it had made extensive inquiries after Mr Holland's body was found.

Mary Lawton Johnson who lives in Florida says she told police where to find Alex Holland's body in January Picture: Twitter @MarytheMedium
Mary Lawton Johnson who lives in Florida says she told police where to find Alex Holland's body in January Picture: Twitter @MarytheMedium

This included reviewing CCTV footage and examining mobile phone data.

Alex Holland was a former pupil at Sir Roger Manwood's School in Sandwich.

He worked as a delivery driver for the Plumbs upholstery firm in Dover.

Psychic Mary Lawton Johnson had contacted Kent Police in January claiming she told them where to search for his body in January.

Mary, who lives in Florida and has never been to Kent, became involved after she was contacted by a friend of Alex's family.

She says she connected with the 27-year-old after "seeing him on a street corner" and started experiencing visions of him "face down in water".

She also told police she believes Alex was murdered and descriptions of "suspects" to officers.

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