Sex attacks suspect found dead

A VETERINARY surgeon who was facing allegations of attempted rape and sexual assault involving three different women has been found dead, police have confirmed.

Russell Claydon

A VETERINARY surgeon who was facing allegations of attempted rape and sexual assault involving three different women has been found dead, police have confirmed.

Lee Hibbert, 30, of Turing Court, Kesgrave, had been due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday to answer the charges.

As yet the cause of his sudden death is not known but a post-mortem examination has taken place and the findings will be reported to the coroner ahead of an inquest.

Hibbert, a former Woodbridge School pupil, was charged with three different sexual offences, one of attempted rape and two of sexual assault, spanning from September 2007 to March last year.

The offences were said to relate to the Felixstowe and Woodbridge areas. Police said they involved three alleged victims.

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Hibbert had studied to be a vet at the Royal Veterinary College in London and Liverpool University and had worked for Smith Ryder-Davies and Partners in Felixstowe and the Barn Veterinary Surgery in Copdock, near Ipswich.

Paramedics and police were called to his home on January 15 and he was taken to Ipswich Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Last night a police spokeswoman said they were not treating Hibbert's death as suspicious and had passed the details to the coroner to determine the circumstances.

“Police were called to an address in Turing Court, Kesgrave, just before 10am on Thursday, January 15 to reports that a man had been taken to hospital from the address,” she said. “The 30-year-old man was pronounced dead a short time later.

“Police are not treating the death as suspicious and an inquest will take place in due course.”

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Coroner's Office said she could not confirm the cause of death at this stage as they were waiting on the results of the post-mortem and further inquiries.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which brought the case against Hibbert, said an allegation of attempted rape related to a girl aged 16 or over between September 1 to September 30, 2007. A second charge of an allegation of sexual assault on a female had related to between December 12, 2007 to January 31, 2008.

The final count was of an alleged sexual assault on March 13, 2008.

Judge John Devaux, sitting at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, formally closed the case against Hibbert.

The Barn Veterinary Surgery in Wenham Road, Copdock, confirmed Hibbert had worked there for a period last summer.

A spokeswoman said: “He did work here for a very short but not very long, just a few weeks in the summer. I do know the sad story of his death. He was at a local practice before that.”

She added: “He was very liked by clients - they thought he was an excellent vet.”

Staff at the Smith Ryder-Davies practice did not wish to comment.

A private funeral service for Hibbert is due to be held in Ipswich on Monday.