Farmer found dead under half-ton hay bale after six-day search – Somerset Live

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Roy Hart, 62, lived alone at the farm that he inherited from his parents
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A Westcountry farmer was found dead in one of his barns six days after he was reported missing. Roy Hart, 62, was discovered trapped under a large bale of hay weighing over half a ton.
Police carried out daily searches for the Devon dairy farmer but, initially, there were no signs of him. A jury inquest at Exeter’s County Hall today (September 15) heard even police dogs had been used to search the farm and that it was feared Mr Hart may have fallen into a slurry pit on his large isolated farm or ended his own life.
However, when two detectives were sent to his home on June 27, 2021, to retrieve financial documents, they took a look around the farm. As reported by Devon Live, they noticed that in one of the barns leading to the milking parlour, a wheelbarrow had been left by a pile of hay bales but the handles were not visible.
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On closer inspection, the bottom of Mr Hart’s boot was visible through the hay. The help of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was requested to help remove the bales one by one which were too heavy to manually lift.
Mr Hart's body was eventually found when the third bale was removed. The barn had previously been searched by officers at least two times.
Detective Sergeant Charles Wilkes confirmed the body of Mr Hart was not obvious on visual inspection. The conclusion was he had become trapped under a bale preventing him from being able to breathe.
The jury heard that Mr Hart was born on the farm and inherited it from his parents when they died. He lived there alone and did not employ anyone to help him.
His cousin, Iris Dyer, described him as being a very quiet and independent person. She added that he kept himself to himself did not leave the farm very often.
She said: “As far as we were aware he was in good physical health. He was a very active farmer and worked very hard to keep everything in order.”
She told how they were not in touch very often and that the last time she had seen him was probably two years ago. She added he was ‘quite safety conscious’ but said the farm was very old quite run down in places.
Mr Hart was reported missing to police on the evening of June 21 by a neighbour who became alarmed after noticing he had not taken care of his cows that afternoon which he did routinely. The neighbour eventually called 999 after being unable to locate him at the farm and seeing that his car was still in the driveway.
An initial search of the farm, described as being very large and isolated with numerous cluttered outbuildings, was carried out by police that evening. It was then resumed the following day during daylight hours and with extra resources.
The high-risk missing person search continued for five more days including surrounding farms and areas he may have visited. Police also checked to see if he was under the care of any local hospitals and confirmed he was not a patient.
A possible working hypothesis was Mr Hart had fallen into a slurry pit on the farm. However, this was discounted upon further investigation because the surface was solid, there were not visible footprints and there was vegetation and trees growing out of it.
Following the discovery of where Mr Hart was located, a post-mortem examination was carried out. It confirmed the cause of his death was mechanical asphyxia (chest compression and positional asphyxia).
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. His GP stated Mr Hart had not been seen at the surgery since 1996.
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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