An inquest heard that a 90-year-old farmer found dead in a slurry pit had changed his will earlier that day.
John Charles Barnett’s overturned mobility scooter was found on the edge of a lagoon in January 2020. His body was found by a diver at Hully Farm near Whitchurch, Shropshire.
An inquest in Ruthin, Denbighshire, North Wales, heard that the pensioner made a will in 2014, leaving his farm and some land to Nigel Byrne, who had worked on the dairy farm.
The hearing was told that Mr Barnett revoked his will and made a new one on the day he died, leaving £20,000 to Mr Byrne and dividing the remainder of his estate between his son and daughter.
Jennifer Parry-Jones, Mr Barnett’s daughter, told the coroner that she left her father in his chair at 6.22pm on the night of his death and went home. Mr Byrne’s phone call was missed an hour later.
Mrs Parry-Jones described the moment she returned the call as follows: ‘He said “you better get back here quick.’ Your father has gone insane and is heading for the lagoon.’
Mrs. Parry-Jones claimed Mr. Byrne had harmed her father. ‘Why would Nigel harm your father?’ asked Mr Gittins. Mrs Parry-Jones responded, ‘Because my father changed his will.’
The inquest heard that Mr Barnett’s interest in a farmhouse and nearly 60 acres of farmland had been left to him in a will in 2012. Mr Barnett’s son, Robert Barnett, told the coroner that the family wanted answers.
Mr Barnett had previously attempted suicide, according to GP Dr Kieran Redman. However, the farmer’s son stated that his father’s health improved ‘enormously’ in 2019.
The coroner asked Mr Barnett’s son, Robert Barnett, who also works on the farm, if he thought Mr Byrne was actively involved in putting his father in the slurry pit.
Mr Barnett told the hearing: ‘It’s a horrible thing to have to believe. Nigel did have a history where he abused and threatened Dad [with] what would happen if he changed his will. There is, under the surface, a very intimidating part of his personality. In the light of that, I think it is a possibility.’
He added that his father had had a difficult couple of years following the death of his wife in 2017.
The inquest continues.