Peterborough doctor who died hiking in French Alps may have suffered medical episode, inquest hears

A Peterborough doctor who failed to return from a hike while on holiday in the French Alps may have died from an existing medical condition, an inquest heard - with investigators finding no evidence of a fall.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 12:12 pm
Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey, who worked as a GP and senior partner at Minster Medical Practice in Princes Street, had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure and had suffered a mini-stroke in 2016, Thursday’s hearing in Huntingdon was told.

The 63-year-old’s body was found on April 16, 2019, four weeks after he went for a hike on his own in Les Houches in Chamonix.

Cambridgeshire’s assistant coroner Simon Milburn concluded that the experienced hiker died of natural causes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dr Bailey’s friend Paul Van Den Bent, who is also a doctor, said in a statement to French police that they had been on holiday together.

He said it was the fifth time they had holidayed together and that “experienced walker” Dr Bailey decided to go on a solo hike as others in the group went to ski.

Dr Bailey said he intended to complete a hiking route he had previously done, but in the opposite direction, said Dr Van Den Bent.

Dr Bailey parted ways from the rest of the group at 9.15am on March 21, 2019 and called them in the afternoon.

“He told me he had a magnificent day,” said Dr Van Den Bent.

He said he believed Dr Bailey said he would be back in 30 minutes, though may have said he would call again in 30 minutes.

After Dr Bailey did neither Dr Van Den Bent got the hotel to call mountain rescue and the next day they formed four groups to search the mountain.

A French investigation report said Dr Bailey’s body was found in water in a “steep, secluded area” on April 16 with his snow shoes found nearby.

It said that neither his body nor his clothing had “trauma or rips that would be the consequence of a fall”.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Dr Bailey’s medical cause of death was unascertainable, noting that his body was severely decomposed by the time it was recovered.

The pathologist found there were no signs of external trauma and that it was “likely” that Dr Bailey died of natural causes.

He said it was impossible to recover samples to see if Dr Bailey had suffered a diabetic episode.

Coroner Mr Milburn said that Dr Bailey was an “experienced walker who was well-equipped on the day in question”.

He said that his glasses were in tact and he was still wearing them.

“The most likely reason for Robert’s death is it was a natural event,” said Mr Milburn.

“There’s evidence he suffered from a number of medical conditions.

“It’s more likely than not that this was a natural event and natural disease or a condition that ultimately led to his death.”

Mr Milburn offered his condolences to Dr Bailey’s widow, two children and other family members who attended the inquest.