Skull of Kent man who walked away after crashing car was caught in Dutch fishing nets weeks later

Liam Graham has been missing for more than a month
-Credit: (Image: Kent Police)

The skull of a man, 22, from Kent who walked off across fields after crashing his car was discovered weeks later in a trawler boat's fishing nets in the Netherlands.

Liam Graham of Rochester was driving his white Ford Fiesta, with two friends on board, after he had been drinking beer and vodka, and taking cocaine and ketamine. The crash happened on Stoke Road in Hoo, Rochester on July 22 last year at around 12.35am.

Liam, an electrical engineer, who lived in Heron Way in Lower Stoke, had been out with friends, including at a pub. He left the scene of the crash and despite searches by Kent Police to find him, including using sniffer dogs and a helicopter, he was not found.

A missing person appeal was launched and in addition to police work, family and friends also worked tirelessly to trace him. But in November, the Dutch authorities contacted Kent Police as a skull had been caught in fishing nets in the sea near the Netherlands.

Read more: 'Kind and caring' Liam Graham laid to rest as family pay heartfelt tributes at his funeral

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DNA tests revealed it was almost certainly Liam's, an inquest on Tuesday at Mid Kent and Medway Coroners' Court in Maidstone. Assistant coroner James Dillon said the hypothesis was that Liam had entered the tidal water of the Thames Estuary and his body was taken out into the North Sea.

Liam (right) with his sister Holly (middle) and older brother Christian
Liam (right) with his sister Holly (middle) and older brother Christian -Credit:Holly Graham

Mr Dillon said Liam had died on or after July 22 last year, the day of the accident, and before September 15, the day his remains were found in the North Sea, but it was most likely to have been on July 22 or 23.

"We don't know why he went into the sea," said Mr Dillon. "We don't know if he died in the sea or before he came to be in the sea. But it is more likely he would have died being immersed in the water."

He said Liam may have ended up in the water as a result of being "confused". The coroner, who was referring to the report by Kent Police Detective Inspector Paul Fewtrell who was there, told the inquest Liam had a condition called syncope which caused him to black out, but he had not had any episodes for some time.

Mr Dillon said there had been "a limited amount of physical evidence" for the post-mortem carried out by pathologist Dr Kingsley Osayi of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, who appeared by video link during the inquest.

Dr Osayi said there was no sign of trauma on the skull. A small piece had been dissected for DNA testing, however.

The coroner said there was insufficient evidence to state the date and place of Liam's death, and the medical cause of death was "unascertained". But Mr Dillon said he would "regard" the Thames Estuary near All Hallows as to be where he died.

Mr Dillon said Liam had left the scene before emergency services arrived, without his Puma trainers on, and it was not known if he was injured. The inquest heard the car had smashed into property, fences and hedges and had left a trail of destruction and one of the friends was described by a resident as being "moaning in a hedge".

Liam (right) and his brother Christian
Liam (right) and his brother Christian -Credit:Holly Graham

A wooden post had smashed through the windscreen on the driver's side. Liam had walked on foot in a "northern direction" in the dark.

"His reasons for travelling away from the scene at night? We don't know why. He probably didn't want to encounter the authorities but we can't say that for certain," said Mr Dillon.

Mr Dillon said there were somewhat "haphazard" track marks, which headed towards the A228, which it was believed had been created by Liam. His socks had been found on that route, and his wallet was discovered in October around 90m from the crash scene.

The inquest also heard Liam may have been walking towards the distant lights of Southend or Canvey Island, thinking it was "civilisation". He may have got into the mud and water of the Thames Estuary, said Mr Dillon. There was no evidence of third party involvement, he said.

"It's unlikely he entered the water deliberately," said Mr Dillon, who recorded an open conclusion.

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