Paralympic village hanging death must remain a mystery, says coroner


A coroner has been unable to say for certain how a member of Nepal’s Paralympic delegation came to be found hanging from a tree in the middle of the London 2012 athletes’ village.

Man Bahadur Lopchan, a leading disabled activist in Nepal, was found on the edge of Victory Park in the early hours of 11 September, less than 36 hours after the end of the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games.

Fellow disabled activists in Nepal have called for a full investigation into his death, while Lopchan’s son said his father had phoned a relative in Nepal during the Games to express fears for his safety.

Senior figures in Nepal’s Paralympic movement later denied “futile, detestable and degradable” claims about the death and insisted that it was “absolutely not true” that Lopchan had feared for his safety.

An inquest in Walthamstow this week heard that paramedics had tried to revive Lopchan – who had played a major part in establishing the Paralympic movement in Nepal – and had rushed him to the Royal London Hospital, but he had fallen into a coma and died seven days later.

In a written statement, Lila Kumar Shrestha, the Nepal team coach, described seeing Lopchan taking photographs of London 2012 volunteers and chatting with them the previous day, and said he had appeared to be in “a normal state of mind”.

Stephen Robson, who was working as a volunteer in the athletes’ village, had seen Lopchan sitting in his wheelchair by the tree shortly before he was found hanging from one of its branches, and said he had not appeared to be distressed.

The inquest heard that Lopchan had missed his flight home to Nepal, with all but one of the rest of the Nepali delegation flying out of the UK the previous evening, while he did not appear to have made any attempt to contact his team-mates at the airport.

PC James Naish, who was part of the London 2012 police team based near the athletes’ village and arrived at the scene with a colleague to find Lopchan being treated by paramedics, said no-one had seen the incident take place, but he had treated the death as suicide and was “satisfied” there were no suspicious circumstances.

Naish said police found nothing “out of the ordinary” on Lopchan’s phone, and he had been unable to secure any useful information from his son, who he spoke to on the phone through an interpreter.

The coroner, Chinyere Inyama, told the inquest: “I don’t have enough evidence about his state of mind to reach the verdict that he took his own life.”

He said he also did not know whether Lopchan was “typically someone who acted on impulse”.

He added: “In my view it is not just possible, it is probable, it is likely, that he took his own life, but I cannot be satisfied and I am not absolutely sure so I am not going to record that verdict.”

He recorded an open verdict, which he said was the only option available to him.

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said after the inquest that the case would “remain open” unless “further significant evidence” came to light, but there would be “no further investigation” by the force.

29 November 2012

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