Lancaster man watched as wife fell to death on walk

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A Lancaster man told an inquest how he watched in horror as his wife plunged to her death from a Lake District mountain.

Jonathon Cox, of The Piazza, Standen Park, and his wife Susannah, 37, were regular and keen fell walkers, he told South Cumbria coroner, Ian Smith.

On June 20 they were both on holiday from work and took advantage of one of the few nice days last summer to walk in Langdale.

They decided to tackle Jack’s Rake, a difficult scramble along a natural groove in Pavey Ark.

“It was a sunny, clear, bright and dry day,” Mr Cox told the hearing at Kendal County Hall on Wednesday.

The couple had a picnic at Stickle Tarn, then set off up the escarpment. They hadn’t gone far when Mr Cox said he waited patiently on a ledge for his wife, a benefits officer for Lancaster and Preston city councils, to catch up.

“I couldn’t see her feet, as she was coming round the corner of the rock and all of a sudden she screamed and disappeared.

“I can only assume she lost her balance and fell sideways. Until that moment she was looking straight ahead into my eyes.”

Ambleside and Langdale Mountain Rescue Team and the North West air ambulance were called, but Mrs Cox was found 100 feet below where she fell.

She had died instantly.

PC Paul Burke, who attended as a mountain rescuer, said Mrs Cox was lying head down.

He said Jack’s Rake was one of the most popular scrambles in the Lake District. He described it as challenging and unforgiving if a scrambler loses their footing.

Mr Smith said Mrs Cox was appropriately dressed. There was nothing that she or Mr Cox did that was in any way irresponsible and he recorded a verdict of accidental death.

“I don’t condemn Mrs Cox or her husband for anything they did,” he added.

By coincidence within days of Mrs Cox’s death another fell walker Howard Gladwin, 49, of Burley in Wharfedale, fell from higher up the same feature and died.

Mr Smith also recorded a verdict of accidental death at his inquest the same day as Mrs Cox’s.

He said that there had been three fatal accidents on Jack’s Rake in the last 20 years and he didn’t advocate signs warning of the danger as “it was patently obvious it is somewhere that requires great care”.