Footballer who ‘used cocaine to suppress demons’ drowned in ‘tragic’ accident

A former non-league footballer who used cocaine to "suppress his demons" drowned in a tragic accident after being reported missing earlier this year, an inquest has heard.

James Dean, 35, was first reported missing by his family back in May, only to be found face-down in a water stream just a few days later.

The ex-Chorley FC footballer was said to have been struggling with mental-health problems for a number of months and would even use cocaine to numb the pain of his demons.

As per the Lancashire Telegraph, Detective Inspector Tracey McMurdo said he was last seen on a CCTV camera at Orchard Drive, Oswaldtwistle, just after 11pm on May 6.

The CCTV footage reportedly showed Dean – who spent three years at Chorley and also enjoyed stints with Bury, Hyde United, FC Halifax Town and AFC Fylde – running into a car park.

His family believe that, in his paranoid state, he dived through the small gap in a fence panel after seeing a car go past.

The gap led into the woodland area with the stream where he was found on the afternoon of May 9.

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Police believe he died shortly after entering the woodland area on the night of his disappearance, although Detective Inspector McMurdo said there was no evidence to suggest he committed suicide.

Dean's family told police that he would usually use water to cool himself down after taking cocaine, meaning officers decided to focus their search on well-known waterways.

However, the spot where he was eventually found was unknown to them so it wasn't searched for several days.

Dean was classified as a 'high risk' person because of his battle with mental illness, with the inquest hearing that he was referred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital in June 2020 after taking cocaine and saying he did 'not want to be here anymore.

He was then referred by police for a second time the following September after his mother, Margaret, had called to raise concerns that he was having another mental-health episode.

Det Insp McMurdo said: “James was so well known in Accrington. As soon as people knew he was missing there was so much help from the local community.

“People were sharing on social media and creating search parties.”

  • If you or someone you know is struggling and needs to talk, call the free Samaritans helpline 24/7 on 116 123. You can also email [email protected] or find your local branch online.

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