Published: 19:22, 27 October 2021
| Updated: 15:18, 28 October 2021
A popular and well-loved man fell to his death during a night out with friends.
Rory Baldwin was visiting friends for the weekend in Rochester when he disappeared on July 30, an inquest has heard.
The 26-year-old, who grew up in the Medway Towns but had since moved to Farnham in Surrey, was found at the bottom of a cliff near Oliver Twist Close in Rochester.
Rory had fallen about 40ft while attempting to take a shortcut to rejoin mates he had spent the night with.
Coroner Catherine Wood heard it is believed Rory had taken “a wrong turn” after leaving The Vines having gone to the toilet and trying to catch up with friends.
Rory had spent the evening with a friend having dinner in Rochester before visiting pubs along the High Street.
The court heard he met with others and planned to continue the night at a mate’s house in The Esplanade.
But shortly after their last contact with Rory at 1.08am, friends were unable to reach him on his phone.
The following day friends grew concerned they had not been able to get hold of Rory and that evening he was reported missing to police.
A massive search effort was launched with Rory listed as a high risk missing person.
The police helicopter, search and rescue teams and boats were involved in the search.
Ms Wood acknowledged police had “tried very hard to find Rory” but even when the search had begun it was too late to save him.
Speaking after the inquest, Rory’s mum Karen Baldwin said her son was a “happy, go-lucky and caring guy”.
“He had so many friends and people adored him,” she said.
“People at the funeral said he was the glue and he loved to socialise.
“He always got people together and organised things.
“He worried about me but was a real live wire and played football and rugby and ran.”
Karen said her beloved son “had everything sorted with a good job”.
“He was larger than life, not in your face and he was sensible but just liked to have fun and everyone to be happy. "
Karen said friends had been getting tattoos of watermelons in tribute to Rory in reference to his nickname.
“When he was at school he had a rather pert bottom and he was called Melon Pants so from then on he was called Mel,” Karen said.
“At the funeral some wore shirts with melons on, melon ties and melon flowers.
“They’ve got the tattoos of watermelons for life now so that’s them talking to their children and grandchildren about their friend they grew up with.”
Rory’s mum and uncle Ian Taylor thanked everyone who had helped try to find Rory after he disappeared and said they had been “humbled and amazed” at the number of people trying to help.
The former Rainham Mark pupil was found after a resident spotted a trainer on the roof of an outbuilding at the bottom of the cliff.
Rory’s body was found between the shed and the cliff in a small area of ground.
A post mortem found Rory had suffered severe blunt trauma injuries to his chest, fractured ribs and a “transection of the thoracic aorta”, which the court was told led to a severe haemorrhage causing his death.
Toxicology reports found levels of alcohol in his blood below the drink-drive limit and traces of cocaine which the coroner said was not a contributing factor in causing his death but “may have impaired his decisions”, the court heard.
Questions were raised about the maintenance of a fence which ran alongside the area where Rory had been walking.
The court heard the fence, owned by London and Quadrant (L&Q), was in a poor state of repair and a single sign at the top of the three-metre fence warning about the steep drop below was barely visible due to its position, overgrown plants and the fact it was dark and poorly lit.
Det Sgt Matthew Childs told the court he believed Rory had been trying to use his torch on his phone - as it was found some distance away from his body - but would have been unable to see the tree canopy from a narrow strip of land on the other side of the fence.
Giving evidence, L&Q assistant director for the south Tracy Nembhard told the court confusion over who owned the land and a lack of clarity about accessing the site meant the fence had not been repaired or assessed since 2012.
Asked whether changes had been made to improve safety, Ms Nembhard said a new system was in place to ensure alerts for six-monthly reviews are carried out.
She added repairs to the fence had been made with six new signs ordered warning about the dangers of the area.
The court also heard an agreement is in place with Medway Council to access the fence through council-owned land.
Ms Wood concluded by saying she felt she did not need to make a prevention of future deaths report after hearing evidence about what steps had been taken.
She also ruled out suicide as there was no evidence to suggest Rory had intended to take his own life.
She said it “was more likely than not this was an accident”.