The grieving mother of a Blackpool man whose body lay undiscovered for almost four years after he was killed in a walking accident today told how he died doing what he loved.
A coroner has ruled Chay Lancaster died following an accidental fall in a remote part of the Lake District.
Despite a string of extensive searches, after he went missing in 2010, his body lay undiscovered until July this year.
Mr Lancaster, a Blackpool Council care assistant, from Melrose Avenue, Layton, was identified from his dental records.
Because of the four-year delay a pathologist could not give a cause of death, coroner Ian Smith told the inquest at Kendal County Hall.
Mr Lancaster, who was 41 when he went missing, regularly walked the fells on his own, his mother Judith Lancaster, of Torsway Avenue, Layton, told the inquest.
The last time she saw her son alive was at a regular Saturday get-together at her home on September 11, 2010.
He planned to walk the fells the next day.
“We always told him, he should tell us where he was going, but he never did, saying ‘nothing will happen to me, walking’,” said Mrs Lancaster.
She added the family only found out where Mr Lancaster had gone when he went missing as his daughter Elizabeth, who was away at Edinburgh University, returned and looked through his collection of maps and discovered it was one of Little Langdale that had gone missing.
PC Jo Dyson said police started making inquiries on September 23. They discovered Mr Lancaster had last been seen at Windermere Railway Station and it was thought he took two buses, one to Ambleside and the other into Langdale.
PC Dyson said: “It was known that he liked to get off the main paths, and had an interest in Neolithic sites, so intensive searches of the Langdale Pikes concentrated on Mickleden Valley, where an axe factory was located.”
Cumbria Police, Lancashire Police, Ambleside and Langdale Mountain Rescue team and search dogs were involved in the search, but no-one was found, she said.
PC Dyson said mountain rescue teams made regular searches and always kept Mr Lancaster’s disappearance in mind when out on the fells.
But it wasnot until July 28 this year that climbers came across human remains at the bottom of the 535 metre high Blake Rigg crags, near Blea Tarn, on the other side of Little Langdale.
It was a remote corner of the fells that not many people walked, PC Dyson said.
A Juniper bush was found broken and a rucksack containing Mr Lancaster’s property was stuck on a branch.
“Ten metres below that a shoe was found and 20 metres below that were the remains of Mr Lancaster,” PC Dyson added.
Mrs Lancaster said her son had a history of heart problems.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Smith said: “Mr Lancaster was off for a day’s fell-walking. He was not in any trouble. He wasn’t trying to lose himself.
“It is impossible to say where he was. He either had a heart attack while on a strenuous walk and consequently fell, or he could just have lost his footing and fell,” said the coroner.
“There was a large skull fracture, which the pathologist said could explain his death or have happened after death.
“But on the balance of probabilities, the most likely explanation was simply an accident. Mr Lancaster had lost his footing at a certain point and fell a long way and died outright.”
Mrs Lancaster thanked all the police, mountain rescue teams and others who had tried so hard to find her son.
After the inquest, Mrs Lancaster told The Gazette her son had been a well-known guitarist in the local music scene and had lots of friends.
“He loved fell walking and if he had to die anywhere, it was an appropriate place for it to happen,” she added.
Mr Lancaster’s daughter Anna added: “I’m just glad we now know more about what happened to him, and it is good to have some answers.”