Warder's mystery death `accidental'

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The Independent Online
A prison officer found strapped in his car in a river two years after vanishing died as a result of a road accident, a coroner decided yesterday. William Morris said there was no evidence that Peter Curran, 38, of March, Cambridgeshire, had been the victim of foul play, and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

But lawyers for his widow, Christine, said they would push for a new inquest before a jury. Mr Curran, a guard at Whitemoor top-security prison, near March, disappeared on 14 May 1995 after being suspended over allegations that he smuggled toiletries to prisoners. He was found in a river near Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, on 12 February this year. He vanished eight months after a break-out by IRA prisoners from Whitemoor and his car was recovered a month after a trial linked to the escape collapsed.

Mrs Curran has suggested he might have been murdered because he knew of the break-out. But Mr Morris said any suggestion of foul play was at best inference and conjecture. Det Chief Insp Trevor Bracken said no evidence of any criminal act had been uncovered at any stage.

The hearing, at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, was told Mr Curran was distressed after being suspended. He left home in his car one Sunday morning, telling his wife he was going to play golf, although he did not take his clubs. He was never seen again. Police told the inquest the fenland road along which he was thought to have driven after leaving home was notoriously dangerous.

Cars regularly left the road and plunged into the river running alongside, killing their occupants. Mr Morris concluded that Mr Curran had probably been involved in such an accident. "This would not have been the first time where a single vehicle has left the road on that stretch," he said. "I have in mind that Mr Curran would probably have had a lot on his mind. "Any steering error in that situation, particularly if there was speed involved, would have been disastrous."

The coroner said it was impossible to say for sure on what day Mr Curran had died because of the decomposed state of his body when it was found. But he said he thought that death had probably taken place on or about 14 May 1995 - the day Mr Curran disappeared.