Man found in Suffolk river was ‘competent swimmer’ - murder trial told

PUBLISHED: 15:12 20 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 October 2020

Joe Pooley, from Ipswich, was found dead in the River Gipping in 2018  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Joe Pooley, from Ipswich, was found dead in the River Gipping in 2018 Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY


A 22-year-old old man whose body was found in the River Gipping was a competent swimmer and had a number of swimming certificates, a court has heard.

Joe Pooley's body was discovered in the River Gipping  Picture: RACHEL EDGEJoe Pooley's body was discovered in the River Gipping Picture: RACHEL EDGE

In a statement read to a jury at Ipswich Crown Court, Joe Pooley’s former foster carer Sue Eastwood said Mr Pooley had swimming classes at his school.

“He wasn’t a bad swimmer and he got some certificates,” she said in her statement.

Mrs Eastwood said she had kept in touch with Mr Pooley after he left her care and had been concerned when she saw him the year before his death because he had been afraid to go for lunch in Ipswich town centre for fear of being beaten up.

She said Mr Pooley told her he didn’t want to walk down the main street to McDonalds and instead they had gone for lunch in a side street.

Mrs Eastwood said Mr Pooley had seemed “aware and afraid of people” but hadn’t mentioned any names.

Although she was aware of an incident when Mr Pooley had collapsed after drinking alcohol and was taken to hospital after he left her care, she hadn’t seen him under the influence of alcohol.

The court has heard that Mr Pooley’s body was found in the River Gipping on August 13, 2018, by a man walking his dog.

Christopher Paxton QC, prosecuting, has told the court that the location where his body was found was in a part of the river where there was no real flow that could cause a swimmer difficulty.

He said a post-mortem examination had found Mr Pooley’s death was as a result of immersion in water.

Before the court are Sean Palmer, 30, of South Market Road, Great Yarmouth, Sebastian Smith, 35, of no fixed address, Becki West-Davidson, 30, of Rope Walk, Ipswich, and Lisa-Marie Smith, 26, of Hawick, Roxburghshire.

They have all denied murdering Mr Pooley on or before August 7, 2018.

The court has heard that Mr Pooley had autism and was considered to be “vulnerable, trusting of others and easily taken advantage of”.

Mr Paxton has alleged that West-Davidson, who had a sexual relationship with Mr Pooley, had been angry with Mr Pooley over comments he was said to have made about her and Lisa-Marie Smith and had “stoked up hostility towards him”.

He claimed that Sebastian Smith and Palmer had attacked Mr Pooley and thrown his body in the River Gipping after Sebastian Smith’s then girlfriend, Lisa-Marie Smith, lured Mr Pooley from his address at the Kingsley House Hotel, in London Road, knowing he was going to be attacked, or at the very least “given a serious beating.”

He claimed that following the discovery of Mr Pooley’s body, Palmer told his then girlfriend that Sebastian Smith had punched Mr Pooley and he had helped put him in the river.

Mr Paxton claimed West-Davidson “tried to cover up” the alleged murder by deleting a number of Facebook messages, including one in which Mr Pooley asked her to “call off the hit” and another telling Mr Pooley “you’re f****d, mate”.

He said that although West-Davidson had expressed love for Mr Pooley she had fallen into a rage after learning about comments he’d allegedly made about her children.

Sebastian Smith had allegedly been angry about things Mr Pooley was supposed to have said about him and his girlfriend Lisa-Marie Smith and sent him a text saying: “I’m going everywhere until I find you.”

Mr Paxton alleged that the defendants had “bullied, threatened and ganged up on” Mr Pooley.

He said that prior to his death Mr Pooley received a message from Sebastian Smith saying: “RIP Joe” and one from West-Davidson saying: “I wish you’d just die tbh.”

During his opening of the case to the jury Mr Paxton claimed that Sebastian Smith had lied to Mr Pooley’s mother after he went missing by allegedly telling her he had “come over a few days ago” and that “he’s prob got some weed n chilling”.

The trial continues.

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