Police ordered not to enter sea to save drowning Irish man

David Dooley ended up in the sea after night out in Brighton, inquest is told

David Dooley (38) died in England after being swept out to sea. Photograph: Khrystyna Dooley

David Dooley (38) died in England after being swept out to sea. Photograph: Khrystyna Dooley


Police officers were ordered not to go into rough seas during Storm Callum as an Irish man struggled to swim to safety and drowned, an inquest in the UK has heard.

Officers said David Dooley (38) had drifted too far out to sea and the weather was so bad it was unsafe to try to rescue him, the hearing was told.

He was swept out to sea when he was on a night out in Brighton, East Sussex, on October 13th.

Born in Dublin, Mr Dooley lived in Tullamore, Co Offaly, before moving to Chiswick, west London.

A postmortem examination found he died after drowning but “serious intoxication” was a contributing factor.

Toxicology reports showed he was almost four times the drink-drive limit and had traces of cocaine in his system, Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court was told.

Mr Dooley was spotted “waving his arms and making attempts to return to shore” in the “very rough” sea with “high winds and large waves” before he fell lifeless and his body was seen floating, the inquest heard.

Mr Dooley’s wife Khrystyna left the hearing in tears as Detective Sergeant Kerry Bartup told the court officers were ordered not to go into the sea.

They had been unable to find any of the lifebuoys situated at points along the seafront and because they were on foot patrol, did not have access to throw lines sometimes kept in police cars.

Instead they tried to shout advice to Mr Dooley over the noise of the waves, kept other members of the public back from the water’s edge and tried to get equipment sent from a nearby police station.

Reading evidence to the court, Det Sgt Bartup said it was “far too dangerous” for officers to go out and a sergeant “made the decision that no-one was to go into the water”.

She added: “Officers felt concerned about their own safety and other members of the public.”

When Mrs Dooley came back into the room, she asked: “You saw him struggling for about 20 minutes in the water but nobody could help him?”

Det Sgt Bartup added: “I am really sorry.”

In a statement read to the court, Mr Dooley’s friend Andrew Mather told how the pair arranged to meet in Brighton. They spent the afternoon and evening together drinking and eating before sitting with cans of lager on the beach, he said.

Then Mr Dooley went down to the water’s edge but Mr Mather had a “feeling something was wrong” and saw he had disappeared so raised the alarm with security staff at the nearby Coalition nightclub, who contacted the police.

Helicopters could not be sent out because of the weather conditions and lifeboat crews had to battle waves to get to the body, the hearing was told.

Assistant coroner Gilva Tisshaw decided to adjourn the inquest to investigate “matters of concern”, adding: “If a lifeline had been available to the officers earlier, would the outcome have been different.”

The hearing will resume on March 19th.