Farmer found dead underneath hay bale was crushed to death in horror accident

A dairy farmer whose sudden disappearance sparked a six-day police search was found dead under a hay bale on his own farm, an inquest heard.

Roy Hart, 62, was discovered at his farm in Upottery, Honiton in Devon last year after family and friends grew increasingly worried about him, reports DevonLive.

He was first reported missing to police on the evening of June 21, 2021 by a neighbour who raised the alarm after noticing he had not taken care of his cows that afternoon as he usually did, a jury inquest at Exeter County Hall heard yesterday (Thursday, September 15).

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His neighbours called 999 after they were unable to locate him at the farm, and saw his car was still parked in the driveway.

Despite extensive searches of the farm over the next few days, involving detectives and police dogs, nothing was found.

Police inquiries then began to explore whether Mr Hart may have fallen into a slurry pit on the large isolated farm, or potentially ended his own life, the inquest heard.

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Two detectives sent to retrieve financial documents from his home on June 27 later noticed that wheelbarrow had been left by a pile of hay bales but the handles were not visible.

On closer inspection, the bottom of Mr Hart’s boot was visible through the hay.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service were requested to help remove the bales, which were too heavy to manually lift.

Mr Hart’s body was found underneath the third bale they inspected inside the barn, which had previously been searched by officers at least two times.

Addressing the inquest, Detective Sergeant Charles Wilkes confirmed the body of Mr Hart was not obvious on visual inspection.

A post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of his death was mechanical asphyxia (chest compression and positional asphyxia).

The conclusion was he had become trapped under a bale preventing him from being able to breathe.

Consultant histopathologist Dr Leonid Semkin told the inquest: “My opinion is Mr Hart died in a matter of minutes of asphyxia.

"I don't think he suffered for hours or days.”

It was noted Mr Hart had not taken any drugs or alcohol prior to his death, and his GP stated Mr Hart had not been seen at the surgery since 1996.

His cousin, Iris Dyer, described him in a statement as being a very quiet and independent person who worked alone on the inherited farm and did not leave very often.

The jury reached a conclusion of accidental death while performing farm duties.

Coroner Philip Spinney added that he will be writing to the chief constable responsible for the search team at Devon and Cornwall Police asking them to review their search processes.


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