Boyfriend drowned in castle pool

A MILLIONAIRESS’ boyfriend drowned in the swimming pool of her historic Clevedon property during a late night party, an inquest heard.

Steven Penny, aged 43, was found submerged and unconscious in the basement pool of Walton Castle, in the early hours of March 12.

His partner, 54-year-old Margarita Hamilton, owns the castle off Castle Road and had hosted a bash to celebrate the birthday of her ex-husband, Roderick Hamilton.

On Thursday, an inquest into Mr Penny’s death was held at Flax Bourton Coroners Court, where it has heard he was three-and-a-half times the drink drive limit when he died. He also had traces of cocaine in his urine and police later seized a 0.07g bag of the Class A drug from the poolside.

However, a pathologist ruled Mr Penny had not taken the substance that night. Tests showed he had taken it two or three days earlier.

Dr Hugh White said ‘dry drowning’ was the most likely cause of death.

He said: “Dry drowning is where water hits the back of the throat and there is a reflex loop which stops the heart. Death can be pretty instantaneous.

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“It is often found in people drinking heavily who have fallen into the water.

“I don’t think the cocaine was a factor in Mr Penny’s death.”

The inquest heard how about 15 friends came to the castle to celebrate the birthday of Mrs Hamilton’s former husband on March 11.

The group enjoyed drinks before heading out to a Greek restaurant in Congresbury at about 9.30pm.

After a meal and more drinks, Mrs Hamilton and Mr Penny returned home and went to bed.

However, Mr Penny struggled to sleep and rejoined the group. Some later went to bed, leaving Mr Penny and two others by the poolside, Patrick Sheehan and Caroline Williams.

At about 4.40am Mr Sheehan and Miss Williams began racing each other in the pool.

Mr Penny was in the shallow end, sitting on some steps while submerging his head under the water.

Mr Sheehan said: “We had swam to the deep end and back and then it was time to get out.

“As we came to the steps of the pool we realised he was no longer moving.”

The pair hauled his body out of the water, before attempting CPR until paramedics arrived. Death was confirmed at 5.25am.

Dr Simon Fox, assistant deputy Avon coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death as a result of dry drowning.

Speaking after the coroner’s verdict, Mrs Hamilton, representing Mr Penny’s family - including his grown up children Daniel and Rebecca, said: “We are very relieved this episode has come to an end. Steven will be sadly missed by everyone.”

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