Wind farm rigger Neil Stewart, from Benwell, drowned in the North Sea Canal in November 2017, after a night out on a party boat in Amsterdam.
A surprise witness offered a grieving mother some much-needed answers about the shock death of a father-of-two with a “heart of pure gold” who died in an Amsterdam canal.
After a night on a party boat, Neil Stewart, a wind farm rigger, drowned in the North Sea Canal in November 2017.
Neil, 30, had been visiting the city on a surprise trip organised by fiancée Chelsea Dixon. Earlier this week, Newcastle Coroner’s Court heard from Neil’s colleague Paul Armes, who had wanted to try to help his friend but had been prevented from entering the water.
Newcastle Coroner Karen Dilks also heard from one witness who said that Neil had come “out of nowhere” in the smoking area to punch her friend in the face, Chronicle Live reports.
The court heard Wednesday afternoon from Angelica Hindle who came forward after reading the media reports.
Angelica, from Cheshire, had been aboard the boat at the time of Neil’s death. She told the inquest she had heard an “altercation” near the DJ’s stand, which she had recorded on video while trying to film people dancing before Neil was led out of the area.
She said: “I couldn’t make out exactly what was being said but I could hear people raising their voices and people responding to it.”
Five or ten minutes later, she witnessed the father-of-two’s tragic fall into the water.
She said: “I and my friend were sat smoking. I looked to my left-hand side and there was a man that I now know to be Neil sat there. There was a security guard sat with him.
“Neil was sat, he was calm, and the security guard turned around for a split second. As he did that, Neil dived over the side of the boat and then he hit the water and the boat propelled him back because it was going at such a speed.”
The evidence of a previous altercation provided some answers to the family as it helped them understand the incident in the smoking area.
Mum Alma Stewart told the witness: “Neil’s children will now know… how their father died thanks to you and I cannot thank you enough, it means so so much to me personally.”
Addressing the inquest, Alma described the “horror” of the two-week wait in Amsterdam as police searched for the body of her “special boy”, and how she had at first hoped he might be found alive. Dutch police discovered his body on the same spot that Alma had been standing while the search continued.
Alma said: “My boy had come back to me, he found a way and came back to me. After all the technology involved in the search his body had washed up by itself.”
She described Neil as a “very popular man” who was devoted to his two children. She stated that Neil was her special boy. He was complex, moody and challenging, but he had a heart of pure silver.
“The void left behind in our lives can never be filled.”
She said she continued to hold “many questions” about her son’s death and whether anything could have been done differently to prevent it.
Martin Tomlinson of Bounce Till I Die events (BTID), who had organized the night on the party boat, was also presented to the court. He told the court that staffing, security and alcohol licences were handled by the Dutch company which operated the boat, while his team provided extra staff to “help out”.
He claimed that he had warned the captain to stop any boat that was entering the water. He said Paul Armes had not been allowed to enter the water for safety reasons as he was “intoxicated”, and it had not been safe for others on the boat to go into the canal in a bid to help Neil.
He said: “It was cold water, it was dark, we couldn’t see anything. It was grim, it was traumatic for everybody, it was.”
The inquest is set to conclude on Thursday.