Water chief 'was unwell' before his disappearance

First Edition

SIR ROY WATTS, chairman of Thames Water, whose body was found in the river Thames a week after he disappeared, had been unwell for two weeks beforehand, an inquest was told yesterday.

Sir Roy, 67, was suffering from Parkinson's disease, Sir Roy, 67, was said to have and had been 'getting extremely unsteady' before he went missing at the end of April.

Lady Watts said in evidence that her husband had known about his condition for some time but initial symptoms had been restricted to a tremble in his left hand.

Michael Hoffman, chief executive of Thames Water, said Sir Roy had told him in the week before he disappeared from his London flat that he was thinking of retiring early.

'He said to me that he might not go full term. I took that to mean that he would retire early,' he said at Poplar coroner's court, east London.

Sir Roy, who became chairman in 1983 after a career with British Airways, was due to leave his pounds 160,000-a-year job on 1 April next year. He was knighted last year and had already indicated that he would retire before his contract expired.

Dr Douglas Chambers, the coroner, recorded an open verdict after both Lady Watts and Mr Hoffman said Sir Roy had never mentioned taking his own life. The cause of death was given as immersion.

'What we miss is a witness to the circumstances under which Sir Roy entered the Thames. None of the witnesses I have spoken to have expressed any suggestion that he intended to take his own life,' he Dr Chambers concluded.

Mr Hoffman told the court that Sir Roy had been appeared 'rather frail' at times but had been mentally alert throughout. He had taken charge of a board meeting nine days before he disappeared at which he was as effective and decisive as ever although he looked tired afterwards.

On the day he went missing, Alan Stoten, his chauffeur, Alan Stoten, took dropped Sir Roy to at his flat in Battersea about lunchtime, after driving him from his home in Charlbury, Oxfordshire, and calling at Thames Water's headquarters in central London.

'As we were driving through Hyde Park, it was a lovely sunny day and I think he mentioned he would like to walk there again,' he said.

After carrying Sir Roy's bags to the flat and offering to make something to eat and drink, Mr Stoten left, agreeing to be back to pick him up again at 9am the next day. morning.

When there was no response the following day, Mr Stoten and others entered the flat and found that Sir Roy's bed had not been slept in. His body was found six days later 50 yards from Westminster Bridge.