Home   Romney Marsh   News   Article

Inquest into former New Romney councillor Clifford Butler found dead after police search

A former councillor who went missing from his home on Romney Marsh was found dead in a hotel room after taking his own life, an inquest heard.

Clifford Butler, who used to sit on New Romney town council, disappeared from his home in Roberts Road, Greatstone on the morning of Tuesday, January 8.

Patrols, including RNLI and Coastguard teams, were deployed for two days in a row in a bid to find the 69-year-old following an appeal.

Former New Romney town councillor Clifford Butler
Former New Romney town councillor Clifford Butler

At an hearing into his death today at the Archbishops Palace in Maidstone, assistant coroner Sonia Hayes heard how staff from the Ashford International Hotel contacted police after finding Mr Butler's body after he had failed to check out on Thursday, January 10.

The court heard how the former lorry driver arrived at the premises in Simone Weil Avenue on the morning of Tuesday, January 8 where he checked in for two days, paying by card and asking to be left alone for "some peace and quiet".

It was two days later, at around 1.30pm when his body was discovered by cleaning staff.

The court was told how Mr Butler had sought help for his mental health, after he had been having suicidal thoughts.

Reading evidence in court, the coroner detailed how Mr Butler had suffered abuse in his childhood from a third party, who was not a family member, which had "significantly distressed" him.

The court heard how the retired Royal Navy submariner, suffered with post traumatic stress following his time at sea, when he experienced an explosion.

He also suffered from tinnitus and Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear which can lead to dizzy spells and hearing loss.

Reading evidence from a GP report, the court heard from the coroner how in December, Mr Butler received help from Crisis teams and admitted himself for treatment, but asked to be discharged the following day on December 20.

Former New Romney town councillor Clifford Butler after he had to wait over an hour for an ambulance
Former New Romney town councillor Clifford Butler after he had to wait over an hour for an ambulance

The next day, he was discovered in a wooded area in East Sussex by a passerby, after taking an overdose.

He went on to receive home treatment and expressed 'remorse' about the overdose, and began engaging with therapy.

The report explained how it appeared Mr Butler's mental health was improving, and he had long term plans to move to Maidstone to be closer to his family.

Giving evidence in court, DS Steve Mart from Folkestone Police Station told how he believed Mr Butler's overdose in the month prior to his death was a "genuine attempt" to take his life, which lead to him being immediately declared a high risk missing person in January.

He told the court the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Mr Butler's body, noting that he was found on the bed in the ground floor room, wearing all his jewellery, and had left a short note, written on a hotel notebook.

The coroner told the court that the note was not addressed to any particular person, but described a "pain in his head" and felt his actions were "the only way for him to get relief".

The medical cause of death given was a mixed drug intoxication, all of which were found in the room and had previously been prescribed to him for various mental and physical health conditions.

"Mr Butler left his home and checked in the International Hotel with the intention of taking the overdose which unfortunately proved fatal" - assistant coroner Sonia Hayes

Third party involvement was ruled out.

DS Mart explained that there had been no further access in or out of the room, which was by an electronic key, since he had checked in: "I believe Mr Butler would have committed this act early on in his stay."

He added that prior to checking it at the hotel, Mr Butler exhibited some 'unusual behaviour' and sent his wife around £1000: "He had made some financial arrangements for his wife to make sure some bills would be paid.

"This would indicate he had thought this through for some time."

The coroner concluded Mr Butler's death to be suicide: "I'm satisfied on the balance of probabilities Mr Butler left his home and checked in the International Hotel with the intention of taking the overdose which unfortunately proved fatal.

"It is very difficult when someone has long term health problems, particularly when they have sought help."

Mr Butler joined the New Romney town council in September 2015 to help the campaign for better health care provisions on the Marsh.

He made several headlines that year highlighting healthcare strains and difficulties in patients getting appointments with GPs.

The inquest took place at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone
The inquest took place at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone

In 2016, he addressed falling ambulance response times on the Marsh, following a Freedom of Information request he made.

His work with the council came after he himself had to wait for an hour for an ambulance after suffering an arterial bleed to his right hand.

He had been cut by sharp steel banding while handling a packing case in May 2014 in an accident at home.

He had to keep the gaping wound closed while he waited.

Clifford Butler was found in a room at the Ashford International Hotel. Picture: Alan Langley. FM4469610.
Clifford Butler was found in a room at the Ashford International Hotel. Picture: Alan Langley. FM4469610.

During his time on the council, he said that an ambulance station was needed on Romney Marsh and upgrades were needed to existing clinical facilities, including the creation of a minor injuries unit as a long-term aim.

In a statement at the time of his death, the Right Worshipful the Mayor of New Romney Councillor Peter Coe, paid tribute to Mr Butler saying: "Clifford Butler was a valued member of New Romney town council who always had the best interests of local residents at heart and a special passion for working towards improving local healthcare for all.

"He will be very sadly missed.

"Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this very sad time."

Littlestone RNLI Lifeboat Station posted on their Facebook page during the operation, confirming that they carried out a water line search while the coastguard, police and Kent Search and Rescue used the station as the control centre.

The Folkestone and Dungeness coastguard teams were also involved in the search for Mr Butler, alongside Rye Bay coastguard teams and the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

If you would like confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123.


More by this author


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