Norfolk

Norfolk couple poisoned by carbon monoxide in Estonia

A wealthy Norfolk businessman and his wife were found dead at their home in Estonia after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning, an inquest has heard.

Banker Philip Townsend, 55, and wife Mary Anne, 52, of Wood Dalling Hall, were discovered by a plumber on 24 February at Taheva near Koiva Kula.

A hearing in Norwich was told they were likely to have been killed by fumes from a petrol-fuelled generator.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Warning over generator

Mr Armstrong said: "It is very clear that the police investigation found no evidence of any third party involvement or any suspicious circumstances."

Mr Townsend, who used the title Baron Townsend of Rathmore, had been the research director of Moscow-based investment firm Enza Capital since 2010.

Their main home was a 16th Century manor house in Norfolk and they also had a flat in Kensington, London.

They had been renovating the barn in Estonia since buying the land in 2009.

Local handyman Andres Saretok had been hired to oversee the renovations and had frequently warned Mr Townsend the doors to the generator room should be left open, the inquest heard.

He visited the couple the night before the deaths and repeated the warning.

'No suspicious circumstances'

Police were called after Olev Podenat arrived at the house the next day to fix a burst water pipe.

Mr Townsend was found near the generator with an empty petrol can and Mrs Townsend was found nearby at the bottom of some stairs.

Officers found the doors closed and an exhaust pipe had been disconnected, possibly after somebody tripped on it, Mr Oras's statement said.

Mrs Townsend's brother James, a Norfolk farmer, said he flew to Estonia with another relative five days after the deaths.

"We went to find out for ourselves what had happened. We were able to establish, as far as we could, that there were no suspicious circumstances," he said.

A post-mortem examination carried out in Estonia and verified by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital found the pair died from asphyxiation caused by vomiting as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mr Armstrong said: "Mr Townsend was clearly an intelligent and capable man.

"He had been told on several occasions the doors should be left open, yet it seems they were closed."

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