Family’s anguish as mystery remains over Suffolk businessman’s death in Sri Lanka

The Coroners Court at Beacon House, White House Road, Ipswich Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

The Coroners Court at Beacon House, White House Road, Ipswich Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant

Mystery surrounds the death of a Suffolk businessman who died on holiday in Sri Lanka - as an inquest revealed experts are only 80% sure the body discovered was actually him.

John Sims, 60, who had several companies registered at an address in Creeting St Peter near Needham Market, died while swimming off the coast of Seenimodara, Tangelle, in Sri Lanka on January 12, 2013.

An inquest yesterday heard the father-of-five had entered the waters at around 10pm and was reported missing when he failed to return.

The hotel he was staying at called the Navy and local fishing vessels to search for Mr Sims but it was called off when a body of a man was discovered a few hours later.

At the inquest, Dr Dan Sharpstone said Mr Sims was identified using his passport photo in Sri Lanka and later identified though dental records, although experts could not definitely confirm it was him - saying they were ‘at least 80%’ sure.

Mr Sim’s family, who attended the inquest, are desperate for answers, fearing the body they buried is not Mr Sims.

They argued that in both post mortems, one in Sri Lanka and one in the UK, there was no mention of serious scarring from back and hip operations Mr Sims underwent more than a decade ago. They also say titanium plates from a spinal fusion and a false metal hip, which the family specifically provided serial numbers to aid in his identification, were not mentioned in either post mortem.

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The inquest also heard the post mortem revealed the man had suffered a previous heart attack, which the family disputed, and that there was a discrepancy in the height of the body compared to Mr Sim’s known height.

Dr Sharpstone criticised the post mortem process in Sri Lanka, saying the body was not kept refrigerated in the days after it was discovered which had made the man’s body very difficult to identify by UK pathologists.

A family member said “we have so many unanswered questions and nobody will answer them.”

Dr Sharpstone gave an open verdict, saying that the quality of the port mortem in Sri Lanka was well below the standards you would get in the UK.

“For me as a coroner the key is the inadequacy of the first post mortem,” he said.

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