Gamekeeper was found dead with pistol on Weymouth wasteland
A gamekeeper who went missing after police called at his house on an enquiry was found shot through the head on wasteland, an inquest has heard.
The remains of Nicholas Stephen Crocker, 56, lay undiscovered for nearly three months not far from his home in Dorchester Road, Weymouth.
A pistol, which Mr Crocker used to dispatch deer, had fired the fatal shot and the weapon was still in his hand when his skeleton was discovered by a workman on January 17 this year. The skull, which had become separated from his body, had a bullet hole in the forehead. Live ammunition lay nearby.
The nature of the enquiry which led police to call at Mr Crocker’s home on September 20 last year was not disclosed at the inquest at Dorchester on Wednesday.
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The court heard that Mr Crocker was out hunting when officers called. They did not tell his partner of 26 years, Ann Winterflood, why they wanted to speak to him.
Mr Crocker did not seem unduly worried when Mrs Winterflood told him of the visit but he did not come home that night. He returned early the next morning, but only stayed for a short time. It was the last time he was seen alive.
Detective Inspector Stewart Dipple confirmed that Mrs Winterflood told Mr Crocker to speak to police but that he replied that he could not do so because “it was all over”.
Mrs Winterflood told the inquest she did not know what he meant, and went to make a cup of tea but came back into the room to find he had gone.
Mr Dipple said that police were “very concerned” for Mr Crocker when he went missing. Despite a police search and public appeal, nothing more was heard of Mr Crocker until workman Ian Hawley stumbled across Mr Crocker’s skull when he and two colleagues were laying drains for a housing development at Nursery Road, behind the town’s ambulance station.
Pathologist Dr Mark Deverill said death was caused by a gunshot wound to the head.
Mr Dipple said his investigation led him to conclude there was no third party or criminal involvement in Mr Crocker’s death. “His distress led me to believe that he may have come to the location to self-harm”. He said the position of the body, which had fallen onto its front with the arm holding the pistol across its chest “suggested that he could have shot himself in the head and fallen forward from a kneeling position.”
Mr Johnston recorded a narrative verdict, saying there was no evidence to record a conclusive verdict.