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‘The darkness took hold’: Man who drowned in river struggled for years with drugs and alcohol

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A man who drowned in a town river last year was a “brilliant person” who was consumed by “darkness” when under the influence of drugs and alcohol, an inquest heard.Robert McAdam’s family reported him missing after last seeing him in late October. Despite a widespread appeal to locate him, the 28-year-old was found dead on Wednesday, November 15.An inquest into his death took place this morning at Norfolk Coroner’s Court, with those present hearing that Robert – who lived at Castle Road in Wormegay – had issues with drug and alcohol misuse for a number of years.

Robert McAdam was found dead in South Lynn after drowning last year. Picture: Norfolk Police

In the last months of his life, he revealed he had been having suicidal thoughts – and told his father he had tried to hang himself on one occasion.However, Jacqueline Lake, senior coroner for Norfolk, said there was insufficient evidence to suggest Robert had killed himself. He was found in the river channel parallel with Nar Ouse Way and Sandpiper Way in South Lynn.

The ‘darkness took hold’ of Robert McAdam when he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, an inquest heard this morning

Mrs Lake concluded that his primary cause of death was drowning, with contributing factors of cocaine and alcohol toxicity.“Robert McAdam had drug and alcohol issues for many years,” she said.“He also had a history of suicidal thoughts and a history of self-harm, and anxiety and depression.”She added: “However, he had consumed alcohol and taken cocaine – both of which will have affected his ability to form any intention. “There is no evidence as to how he got into the water. He may have slipped, for instance, especially as he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.“Robert McAdam drowned. The evidence does not reveal how he came to be in the water.” A statement provided by Robert’s father, Andrew McAdam, said his son had been suffering from substance misuse for around ten years.He first noticed the impact that alcohol had on him at a wedding in 2011. He “disappeared” at one stage and, upon returning, was “angry” and proceeded to kick his father’s car. By 2015, Robert was “fully dependent” on alcohol. His father said this seemed to go “hand in hand” with his mental health struggles.In 2021, when Robert’s mother died, he proceeded to have six weeks sober. His girlfriend reported that this led to him being in the best shape he had been in for a long time. However, he soon started drinking again, with his family unsure as to what triggered this. He began to take cocaine on a regular basis in 2021, and had recently started to use cannabis.Mr McAdam’s statement revealed that at one point during lockdown restrictions, Robert had spent around £15,000 on drugs and alcohol.He was working away from home at the time, and being alone in a hotel room with “nothing else to do” exacerbated his problems.The court heard that Robert tried to take his own life in 2023, and then told his girlfriend he would attempt to do so again if she took his children away from him.His family believe this was a “cry for help”.However, Mr McAdam said that towards the end of October last year – just weeks before he was found dead – Robert had been offered a job at a Hardwick Narrows business after a successful interview, and “seemed happy”.His only concern was being told he would have to undergo a six-month probation period which limited the number of days he could call in sick.Mr McAdam compared his son to the “Jekyll and Hyde” persona.On November 15, Mr McAdam was watching a show in Thursford when he was told that a body had been found in the river at South Lynn.Bank cards and a driving licence found in Robert’s wallet helped to confirm that it was him.At today’s inquest, a statement from Joseph Hardy – a friend of Robert’s – said that on October 27, Robert had been among a group of friends drinking at his home.“He appeared sober and was in good spirits,” Mr Hardy said.Robert did become “upset” at one stage while listening into someone’s phone call, but “seemed okay” otherwise.Robert then attended The Gatehouse pub, just off the Southgates roundabout, before returning to Mr Hardy’s address.He said he had nowhere else to spend the night and was permitted to stay, proceeding to purchase a bottle of vodka and a bottle of WKD Blue.Between 3am and 4am on October 28, others at the property noticed that Robert had disappeared – this was the last time he was seen alive.“I thought this was strange, as he had left without saying goodbye and I had not seen him leave my address,” Mr Hardy’s statement added.“He did not raise any concerns. He was quiet, but I didn’t have any concerns.“He had been drinking, but I do not think he was intoxicated. As far as I am aware, he had not taken any drugs.”However, after Robert’s body was found on November 15, toxicology results showed he had “significant” amounts of cocaine in his system.He also had 139mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, as well as traces of the anti-depressant citalopram.PC Christopher Mitchell of Norfolk Police provided a statement which discussed the CCTV footage which captured Robert’s last moments.He had been seen entering and leaving The Gatehouse, and then at around 3am was spotted walking along The Portway and Sandpiper Way in South Lynn.The latter leads to Dragonfly Way, which is close to where he was later found.A report from senior community mental health nurse Charlotte Roberts was also heard, saying Robert had been depressed for a “substantial amount of time” and had previously been prescribed numerous anti-depressants.He reported that these often made him feel “numb”.Factors which contributed to his depression included being recently fired from a job, restricted access to his children, and a driving ban following a car crash he caused.However, Ms Roberts said Robert had reported he had “no plan” to act on his suicidal thoughts, and had “protective factors” such as his children.Prior to his disappearance, his mental health referral had been downgraded from “urgent” to “routine”.The inquest also heard that Robert had actively engaged with the Change, Grow, Live team in Lynn in an attempt to reduce his cocaine and alcohol use.“Robert was a very funny person,” Mr McAdam, his father, added.“He was the life and soul of the party. It was only when he was under the influence that the darkness took hold.“When he was sober, he was a brilliant person.”For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.If you want to talk to someone confidentially, click here.

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