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Teen Ben Phillips tried to jump off Rochester bridge, inquest hears

Ben Phillips
Ben Phillips

Family and friends of a teenager who was found dead in the River Medway still don’t know exactly how he died.

The body of 17-year-old Ben Phillips, from Chatham, was pulled from the river two months after he went missing last year.

Benjamin, known as Ben, was last seen at a party with friends on Saturday, January 28.

His body was found in the river at Larkfield on March 22. It is thought the former Thomas Aveling pupil had been in the water for some time.

A previous hearing was told Ben died of drowning, but a police investigation was unable to establish the circumstances surrounding his death.

The inquest heard how Ben had often become depressed and emotional after drinking, and had spoken about ways to kill himself.

They said he had also tried to jump off Rochester Bridge on more than one occasion.

Friend Sam Jolly, who had offered Ben a place to stay after he moved out of his dad’s home, said: “Ben was always very sociable around other people, but when we were alone and he’d had a few drinks he could get quite emotional.

“When he was drunk he said he wanted to kill himself, but he was all right when he was sober.”

Karina Vernau added: “Sometimes he was happy, but most of the time he was very down and depressed, but he always put on a front.”

On the night of Ben’s disappearance, friends said he had been drinking and left the party in the early hours of Sunday morning after an argument.

Rochester Bridge
Rochester Bridge

In witness statements given to the police, friends said he had threatened to jump off Rochester Bridge.

The last anyone heard from him was at 4am, when he made a phone call to a friend.

Coroner Patricia Harding said there was not enough evidence to say Ben killed himself and while there was no evidence of third-party involvement, she could not exclude it as a possibility.

Recording an open verdict, she said: “The very sad fact about the death is that there is no direct evidence as to what occurred after his last phone call about 4am and therefore, in such circumstances, sadly I have no option but to record an open verdict.

"All I can say to his parents is that I am very sorry that this inquest has not answered all the questions you had of how Ben died.”

Speaking last March, when Ben’s body was discovered, his dad Tony said: “Ben had a lot of friends, he was very well known. He will definitely be missed by a lot of people.”

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