Published: 14:11, 15 May 2013
The granddad of a teenager found dead on Minster Beach says he is still haunted by the fact his grandson didn’t have his mobile phone with him the day he went missing.
An inquest into the death of Lewis O’Neill-Smith, who drowned, was held at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone earlier today.
Mid Kent and Medway coroner Patricia Harding recorded an open verdict as she said she was unable to determine what had happened between the time the 19-year-old went missing and when his body was found two days later.
Kevin Walker, who was out with his metal detector, saw Lewis’s body around 40 metres past the end of the promenade and phoned the police.
Lewis, who had cerebral palsy, lived with his grandparents David and Sandra O’Neill in Sunset Close, Eastchurch, and had been to East Kent Mencap, where he was a member, on Tuesday, November 6.
After the meeting, Lewis got the bus from Sheerness to Sittingbourne to see his girlfriend home.
They said goodbye and it is thought he then made his way home.
He didn’t get there and his body was found on the morning of Thursday, November 8.
A postmortem exam found there were cuts, scrapes and graze marks on Lewis’s shins, chin, toes, ankles and the backs of his hands.
There were no drugs or alcohol in his system and no evidence of bruising, gripping or fracturing.
The shoes, jacket and trousers he was wearing were missing and have never been recovered.
Miss Harding said there was no evidence anyone else was involved in the death and felt a spat which had happened a month before and an argument with his girlfriend on the day he went missing played no part in his death.
She said there was no evidence at all that he had attempted suicide and speculated that he may have gone swimming and got into difficulty, although she said he had no evidence to support this.
“Lewis was a happy young man,” she said.
“It is curious he was found only partially clothed.
"If he had taken it (his phone) I would have rung him and if he had got stuck in the mud I might have been able to save him" - grandad David O'Neill
“I have no option but to enter an open verdict. The evidence does not show me how he came to die.”
Mr O’Neill said his grandson had been talking about buying a new mobile phone as the screen was playing up and on the day he went missing he had left it at home.
“It haunts me that he left that phone here,” he said.
“If he had taken it I would have rung him and if he had got stuck in the mud I might have been able to save him.
“We are still lost and I am disappointed because it’s not closure to me. We still don’t know what happened to him.
“It wasn’t like him not to come home.”
Lewis’s dad Jason Smith said the verdict was what he expected and he also wonders if his son went swimming as he could be spontaneous.
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