Carlisle chimney death man 'upset over historical sexual abuse'

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Robert "Phil" Longcake was adored by his three grandchildren, his family said

A grandfather who died after being stuck upside down at the top of a 290ft chimney was upset by a decision not to prosecute allegations of historical sexual abuse, an inquest has heard.

Robert Philip Longcake placed himself in a "position of extreme peril" at the top of Dixons Chimney in Carlisle.

The court heard it was unclear whether he had tried to jump or had changed his mind and slipped, catching his ankle.

Coroner Dr Nicholas Shaw recorded a narrative verdict.

The 53-year-old crematorium technician, from Dalston, who was known as Phil, died of hypothermia and cerebral swelling.

In a statement to the inquest his widow Andrea said that he had started what seemed to be a mid-life crisis in the April and in August spoke to police about historical sexual abuse.

He attempted to take his own life in August and again in October, and moved out of the family home in October when she discovered he was having an affair, she said.

'Extreme peril'

PC Andrea Williams, of Cumbria Police, told the inquest there had been insufficient evidence to proceed with Mr Longcake's abuse allegations.

She said: "Quite understandably he was upset with the decision."

On the evening of 27 October he was spotted on CCTV walking with ladders towards Dixons Chimney and then climbing the 88m high structure.

Police were contacted in the early hours by reports of "groaning noises", and a major rescue operation began.

His predicament was described by emergency services as "very complex and precarious" - and he was seen suspended upside down from a ladder at the top. The situation lasted 14 hours and was watched by shocked members of the public.

The coroner said Mr Longcake had been "troubled so greatly" by the abuse.

"The fact it could not be pursued would seem to have hit him so hard," he said.

"He deliberately placed himself in a position of extreme peril with the intent of taking his own life but it is uncertain whether he took the ultimate step or he slipped and fell accidentally."

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