Home   Medway   News   Article

Inquest into Liam Graham’s death after he was discovered in North Sea

The family of a young man who went missing for several months before being found in the North Sea may never know what happened to him.

Liam Graham was last seen walking away from a car accident between Lower Stoke and Hoo in Medway early on Saturday, July 22.

Liam Graham went missing two weeks ago
Liam Graham went missing two weeks ago

After months of searching, in November police confirmed human remains recovered in The Netherlands had been identified as belonging to him.

At an inquest in Maidstone today, the coroner heard of the events leading up to his disappearance.

The 22-year-old had been in the Five Bells in Hoo with friends where he is said to have had three pints.

The group then went to one of the friend’s homes where Liam had two vodka lemonades.

Those at the gathering told police they'd seen him also taking ketamine and cocaine, the court heard.

At around midnight, Liam and two friends left the house in a white Ford Fiesta which Liam was driving.

In a statement read by assistant coroner James Dylan, it is reported one of the passengers said to police: “I can’t remember anything but noise, screeching and then waking up in a bush.

“It was dark and Liam was driving fast down country lanes and braking sporadically. I didn’t feel safe in the car. We took a corner far too quickly and collided with something. I passed out and didn’t see Liam again.”

Police started to receive calls at about 12.33am after the car crashed into a parked vehicle, the wall of a house and fences.

Officers were on the scene in 15 minutes and described it as “carnage”.

Witnesses said the driver ran off towards the direction of Hoo and a Puma trainer was later found near the scene.

CCTV footage showed Liam heading north holding his head as if injured.

The police helicopter and dog handlers were called to help with the search and at this point were hunting for someone who had committed a driving offence.

But the following day, when family and friends were unable to contact Liam, a missing person investigation was launched.

A police officer attended the family home in Heron Way, Lower Stoke, where his mother suggested he may be scared of the consequences and he knew he’d be in trouble.

Posters were put up as part of a huge search to find Liam
Posters were put up as part of a huge search to find Liam

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Paul Fewtrell got involved with the search on July 30. Marine teams, British Transport Police and dog handlers were all called in to help.

Liam’s phone, bank account and social media activity were all monitored and local hospitals and ports checked.

The inquest heard the steps taken by police to try and track down Liam and pieces of evidence collected over the next few months.

In a statement read by the coroner, DI Fewtrell said: “Liam voluntarily left the scene without his shoes, took off his socks in an orchard 0.6 miles from the scene. He was barefoot and there is evidence he was under the influence of drink and drugs.

“He was in a rural unknown area; it was dark and he had no means of light.

Blue ribbons were placed around the villages on the day of Liam Graham's funeral
Blue ribbons were placed around the villages on the day of Liam Graham's funeral

“There was a line of lights in the horizons and he may have been heading towards them.”

On November 6, Dutch authorities got in touch after the crew on a fishing trawler discovered his skull in the North Sea and returned it to their home port in Holland.

The investigator’s main working hypothesis is: “Having walked away from a serious crash towards the bright lights of Southend, which he may have believed was the way home, he entered the mud or marsh area of the Isle of Grain.

“Whether he entered on purpose or by accident is unknown. He was then taken out to the Thames Estuary and then the North Sea, where his skull was found by a fishing trawler.”

The coroner told the court that Liam’s family believe it is unlikely he would have entered the water as he couldn’t swim.

The funeral procession went through Hoo and Stoke earlier today
The funeral procession went through Hoo and Stoke earlier today

Assistant coroner Dylan concluded with an open verdict. He said: “Liam was involved in a road traffic collision and left the scene before emergency services arrived.

“He travelled in a northerly direction and socks with his DNA were found. He appears to have entered the water at Thames Estuary, most likely near All Hallows.

“It is unlikely he entered the water deliberately. His partial remains were located in the North Sea on September 15.

“And that is all I am afraid I am able to draw on conclusions. Those are the conclusions I can draw.

“On behalf of all of us, I’d like to send our condolences on the loss of Liam.”

Officers searching for missing man Liam Graham who was last seen in Stoke Road, between Lower Stoke and Hoo, on July 22, 2023. Picture: Kent Police
Officers searching for missing man Liam Graham who was last seen in Stoke Road, between Lower Stoke and Hoo, on July 22, 2023. Picture: Kent Police

His disappearance sparked a huge search and response from the community to support his family.

Speaking after the inquest, Liam’s sister Holly said: “After months of suffering, looking for Liam, not knowing where he was and what had happened, we came here today hoping this inquest would give us some closure, but we will never understand what happened that night or why or how he ended up where he was.

“The whole family feels let down by the police who didn't act quickly enough from the night of the accident, not informing the family of the crash until we made contact with them 48 hours after the incident.

“Liam has been failed by the police service and this has left us feeling angry, heartbroken and disappointed.

“We can only hope that this never happens to another family and the police have learned their lessons from this tragedy.

“We would like to thank the family, friends and members of public who looked tirelessly for Liam day in and day out.

“Liam, we miss you more than you know and we could do, we would do anything to have one last hug, listen to your infectious laugh or see your silly Fortnite dancing.

“We will forever keep you in our hearts and remember all those good times that you shared with us all.

“Leelies, we love you.”

In response to the family’s statement, Kent Police issued the following.

Superintendent Nick Sparkes said: “First and foremost on behalf of Kent Police, I want to offer my sincere condolences to Liam’s family at this difficult time.

“We acknowledge the coroner’s findings and understand why the family may feel why there are unanswered questions about Liam’s disappearance with an open verdict.

“Following the road traffic collision on 22 July 2023 in Lower Stoke, officers arrived at the scene within 15 minutes and were supported by the police helicopter a short time later to help locate the unaccounted-for driver.

“On 23 July 2023 this was established to be Liam and dog handlers and specially trained search officers continued searching and making local enquiries over the following weeks in an effort to locate him.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank residents, volunteer search teams and those close to Liam who all helped.

“A dedicated family liaison officer was also assigned to support Liam’s family and we will continue to help them as much as we can going forward in the hope they find some closure.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More