Mystery surrounds the death of a ‘kind and gentle’ young man who was found dead in the Avon Gorge after a huge police search, following an inquest hearing.
Joseph Day was reported missing on April 30 before his body was found by officers on the cliffside near Clifton Observatory five days later.
A read inquest into his death at Avon Coroner’s Court this morning (Thursday, August 4) heard that police were alerted to the 31-year-old’s location after hearing his phone ringing ‘at the bottom of the gorge’.
Mr Day, a former cameraman originally from New Zealand, was discovered surrounded by bushes around 30 metres down from the cliff edge before a rope rescue team from Avon Fire and Rescue Service recovered his body.
Following a post-mortem, the medical cause of Mr Day’s death was given as ‘mutiple injuries’ sustained in a fall, while a toxicology report showed ‘no significant findings’.
The court heard that Mr Day’s concerned family members were about to board a plane from New Zealand to join the search for him when they received the devastating news that a body matching his description had been found.
In an emotional statement read aloud to the court, Mr Day’s fiancee Kelsey Mulcahy desribed her partner as a “kind, gentle and incredibly handsome’ man who ‘loved life’.
Miss Mulcahy had travelled to London the day Mr Day went missing from the flat they shared in Pembroke Road in Clifton, and he told her he would ‘just chill at home’ until she returned when they planned to visit Bath together.
But that night while out with her friends Miss Muchlay became increasingly worried when her fiancee suddenly stopped responding to her texts at around 9.30pm.
Arriving back at their flat, she noticed that a Hello Fresh box had been left by the door, their bed was still made and Mr Day’s work clothes were hung up although he was supposed to have left for work that morning.
“I had a bad feeling that he hadn’t slept at home,” said Miss Mulcahy, who was ‘so excited’ to marry Mr Day in September of this year.
Mr Day’s family agreed in their statement that it was ‘so unlike’ Mr Day not to respond to texts, as he was ‘always someone who kept in touch’ and they ‘talked very openly’ about things together as a family.
Mr Day was close to his mother, who text him the day before he went missing to ask how life was going in Bristol - he replied, ‘All sweet, mum’.
Miss Mulcahy, along with Mr Day’s family, have always maintained that their loved one’s death was a tragic accident and not a suicide as previously speculated.
Kelsey added: “From the moment the police gave me the news, I never once thought that Joseph did this to himself, not even later in my grief.
“He journalled, meditated and exercised daily. His mental health was great and he was devoted to me.”
Miss Mulcahy said that when she received Mr Day’s journal back from police, which they believed could contain a suicide note, she saw that one of the last entries read: “I am the happiest I have ever been.”
Miss Mulcahy went on to criticise Avon and Somerset Police’s response to her report that Mr Day had gone missing.
In her statement, she said that she was furious to learn that officers hadn’t started looking for her fiancee immediately, as he was deemed to be in the ‘low risk’ category.
“It was obvious that the police didn’t want to prioritise it,” said Miss Mulcahy, who had handed out flyers in a desperate attempt to find Mr Day before he was found. “That only came after the media started to show interest.”
The investigation by the force into Mr Day’s death never ascertained exactly how Mr Day died, although it found his death was ‘not suspicious’ and there was ‘no evidence of foulplay’.
Detective Superintendent James Cassidy, the lead officer on shift the morning Mr Day was found, said that Mr Day was found near a ledge that is accessible to the public via a path near the Observatory.
The ledge offers the ‘clearest and most uninterrupted view’ of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but there’s still no way of knowing if Mr Day had climbed onto the ledge for this reason.
Officers located Mr Day after they found his phone, which was discovered about four metres away from his body, ringing in the gorge.
More than $100,000 was raised to repatriate Mr Day’s body his body to his hometown of Auckland in New Zealand.
Senior Coroner for Avon, Ms Maria Voisin, recorded an open conclusion.
She said that to record a conclusion of accidental death or suicide would be speculative due to limited evidence.
Ms Voisin added that the exact date Mr Day died, along with how he died, remain unknown.