A wife who survived a ‘suicide’ river plunge in which her husband died was arrested for his murder and subsequently released with no further action, an inquest heard.
‘Doting’ dad Simon Dodds, 43, had asked estranged Lisa, now 32, several times for a divorce after he had found a new love.
Lisa had recorded a suicide video on her mobile phone. She detailed plans to jump into a river.
But it was timed half an hour after she told police both she and Simon were battling to stay alive in a raging river, the inquest into his death heard.
A pathologist found he had suffered a severe head injury immediately prior to his death.
It could not be determined whether it was caused by being thrown around in the river or by a third party before he drowned in the swollen River Kent, near Levens, Cumbria, according to expert evidence.
Lisa, who had three daughters with Simon, gave ‘inconsistent’ accounts about what had happened, and claimed Simon had jumped into the water after her.
But he was a non-swimmer who was scared of the water, and would have gone for help first, his mother told the inquest.
Cumbria Assistant Coroner Craig Smith noted the inconsistencies in Lisa’s account were ‘difficult, if not impossible to reconcile or explain.’
Simon ran Fell View newsagents, in Ambleside, and was the ‘sole carer’ of his daughters with Lisa, aged seven, 10 and 12 at the time of his death.
Lisa, who was bipolar, was a long term patient at The Priory, in Darlington, Co Durham.
She was allowed fortnightly visits to see her children, but on Aug.,10, 2019, she had gone to stay with Simon while the girls were on holiday in Skegness with relatives, the inquest heard.
Lisa was due back to The Priory for 11pm and at 7.59pm the couple were recorded on CCTV getting into the family red Vauxhall estate outside the newsagents.
At 6.20am next morning, Sophie Marlborough spotted the red Vauxhall parked in a lay-by at nearby Brettargh Holt.
It had a smashed windscreen and a soaking wet and shivering Lisa was standing in front of the vehicle. Miss Marlborough was so concerned that she stopped to help.
Lisa told her that she had slipped into the river when she needed to go to the toilet and her husband had gone in after her at 9pm the previous day.
She said she had been swept downstream and over a waterfall. Then she had managed to grab a tree branch and pull herself
out of the river.
The inquest heard Simon had held onto a tree on the opposite river bank.
It was said they were ‘screaming to one another’ until at about 11pm, when it was dark, when she thought Simon had lost his grip and was dragged away by the rushing river water.
Lisa clung on to the tree until daybreak – it got light at about 5.30am – when she climbed to safety, the inquest heard.
Miss Marlborough, who knew the stretch of river, told the hearing that there were no trees in that area and asked Lisa why she had not gone to seek help in the nearby
Lisa ‘had not seen’ the houses, she said. Miss Marlborough later overheard Lisa telling paramedics that she had blacked out at about 11pm, and said that she also changed timings.
“I found her behaviour peculiar. If I had lost my partner I would have been screaming and hysterical,” she said.
Miss Marlborough noticed blood on the damaged car windscreen but saw no bruising on Lisa, who was ‘soaking wet’ in heavy rain.
“I felt really uneasy about what Lisa told me,” she said.
She described how the fast flowing River Kent, which was strewn with loose boulders, was the worst she had ever seen it.
“I cannot comprehend how anybody could have got out of that river,” she told the inquest.
Paramedics and police arrived at the scene and Lisa was taken to Lancaster Royal Infirmary.
Officers forced their way into the red Vauxhall and recovered Lisa’s mobile phone from inside.
They found a video message recorded at 9.26pm on Aug 10.
In the message, she claimed that voices were telling her that if she didn’t do as they said they ‘will kill the girls.’
She stated: ”I’m going to say I’m desperate to use the toilet and then jump in the river.”
In Lisa’s handbag, which was also in the car, they found a pink notebook in which she had written a suicide note about her jumping in the river.
At hospital Lisa told a police officer that she had not had any recent suicidal thoughts and that she had slipped into the river and Simon had gone in after her.
She later said to doctors that she jumped into the river on purpose to end her life, but ‘instantly regretted it.’
After extensive searches of the River Kent Simon’s body was found in a logjam below the A6 bridge at 2pm on Aug 13.
Martin Wilson, who monitors the River Kent, told the hearing that the river was 1.5m above its normal level and its velocity was ‘very
He said mobile rocks and boulders on the river bed made it ‘dangerous’ for anybody in the water. A post mortem found Simon died from drowning, with a blunt force head injury.
A pathologist found a large laceration on Simon’s scalp and a lesser cut on his forehead, which was caused by a patterned object, such as footwear.
The inquest heard that the injury, which could have led to unconsciousness, was caused when Simon was still alive, immediately
prior to his drowning.
The pathologist said it could not be determined whether the trauma was ‘as a consequence of being thrown around in the river or by a third party.’
Judith O’Brien, Simon’s mother, told the hearing that Lisa and Simon, who also had a teenage son from a previous relationship, met
when they worked together in a shop in Hawkshead, Cumbria.
After they married and set up home in Ambleside, Lisa’s mental health deteriorated and she could not cope with the children and she was admitted to the Priory.
In Jan. 2019, Simon started a relationship with another woman from the Philippines, and ‘asked Lisa for a divorce several times,” said Mrs O’Brien.
In July 2019, she said that Lisa ‘snook’ into the shop and attacked Simon in front of one of their daughters. She added that a week before his death he had suffered a ‘grazed right cheek’, which he refused to explain.
Mrs O’Brien said her son was ‘scared of water’ and would only ever paddle ankle deep or stay in the shallow end of a swimming pool.
“I would not expect Simon to enter a river,” she told the inquest.
“He would not have got himself within inches of a river. If Lisa had gone in he would have called 999, but he would never have gone in.
“I cannot get my head around why Lisa was there and the children were away.”
The inquest in Cockermouth, Cumbria on Tuesday heard Lisa had attempted suicide on a number of occasions.
The coroner said there was a ‘lack of clarity’ and ‘inconsistencies’ in the evidence and there were no eyewitnesses, other than Lisa, as to what happened on the river bank.
“It cannot be determined whether the head injury was sustained before he entered the water, by a third party’ or whether he sustained the injury whilst in the water,” said Mr Smith.
Recording a narrative conclusion Mr Smith added: “Simon Dodds was found deceased on August 13 at the River Kent in Sedgwick.
“It cannot be determined the exact circumstances of how Mr Dodds came to be in the river or whether his head injury was sustained before or after entering the water.”
Cumbria Police arrested Lisa Dodds on suspicion of murder in September, 2019, but she was never charged with any offence.
Following a thorough investigation a decision was taken to take no further action and a file was passed to the coroner’s office.
They also appealed for motorists to come forward with dashcam footage taken in the area where he drowned, or might have seen a vehicle in the nearby layby, between 9pm on Saturday August 10 and 7am on Sunday August 11.