A talented teenager whose body lay undiscovered for days died after falling from a shopping centre fire escape, an inquest has heard.

Kelvin Bradley, 18, of Ferryhill, County Durham, had spent the day with a friend in Newcastle city centre on Saturday, July 28, last year before he vanished.

In a statement read by coroner Karen Dilks, his friend Dylan told how the pair had gone to Tesco in the city centre and bought alcohol, Kelvin, a 70cl bottle of vodka, and Dylan, a bottle of rum liqueur.

Loading article content

The friends began drinking and walked around the city centre, down to Castle Keep and back up to the green at Eldon Square.

They then made their way to Leazes Park where they sat on the grass drinking for between two and three hours, the inquest in Newcastle heard.

The pair parted company at around 6.20pm and Dylan said in his statement that although the apprentice graphic designer still had vodka in his bottle, he rated his friend as seven, on a scale of one to 10 for how drunk he was.

When Kelvin did not return to his Ferryhill home, a missing person's appeal was launched by Durham Police when his dad John Bradley reported him missing the following day.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Detective Constable Damon Devine from Durham Police, said: "It was established very early on that this was totally out of character for Kelvin, a lot of resources were utilised for the inquiry."

The search for Kelvin involved officers from the major crime team, the specialist police search team, underwater search team, as well as officers from Northumbria Police as Newcastle was the last place Kelvin was known to be.

Police followed Kelvin's movements through Newcastle after taking a statement from his friend Dylan.

DC Devine said an extensive search of CCTV was carried out. "It is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack," he said.

Eventually CCTV traced Kelvin pushing a shopping trolley towards the service road area down the side of Marks and Spencer towards the back of the John Lewis area in Eldon Square.

But again, due to blind spots in the CCTV, officers lost trace of Kelvin once again.

However, investigating officers gained information from security staff at Eldon Square about an old walkway which was rarely used which had fire access doors, these led to Fenwick and clothing store Bank.

DC Devine told the inquest: "We spoke to staff from the shops and were able to get access to that and asked a security guard to walk that area to see if it led out to anywhere.

"As a result of that on August 2, a security guard came across Kelvin's body in the void at the bottom of the buildings."

CCTV from shop Bank then revealed to officers the rest of the tragic events leading to Kelvin's death.

DC Devine said: "It recorded Kelvin walked up to the fire escape, he was clearly affected by alcohol at this time.

"He was holding railings for balance as he walked up. He tried a door and continued to a further point."

He told the inquest how CCTV appeared to show Kelvin trying doors, which were only accessible from the inside, before sitting down at the top of the fire escape and looking at his phone.

"He then decides to climb over the railing of the fire escape," said DC Devine.

He added: "It was my feeling that he was looking for a way out from that area.

"After a period of time he lost his grip and fell."

Dr Kirsten Hope, a forensic pathologist, told the inquest which was attended by a number of members of Kelvin's family, that the 18-year-old died from serious head injuries after falling from a height, and would have suffered instant loss of consciousness and died a very short time later.

She said: "Since the time of his fall he had not moved at all.

"There was no other drugs in his system, the amount of alcohol was two times the legal driving limit in the UK. There was nothing else."

Coroner Karen Dilks, said: "He had climbed the fire escape, the footage, which I have personally viewed, shows him appear to try to find a way out of the area.

"He is seen to climb over the railings of that fire escape and try the windows.

"Sadly before he is able to climb back he loses his grip and falls into the void below."

She recorded a verdict of accidental death, with the cause of his death being head injuries from a fall from a height.

Paying tribute to Kelvin after the inquest, his father John said: "He is so sadly missed.

"He was extremely talented and he is going to be really sadly missed."

Monday marked Kelvin's 19th birthday and many of his friends took to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to remember the popular lad.

"His friends have been commenting on his Facebook a lot and I know anybody who he met, his friends, will be thinking of him now," added Mr Bradley.

Thousands have joined Facebook tribute pages to Kelvin who started working for a graphic design company in Hartlepool as an apprentice after leaving Durham Gilesgate Sports College and Sixth Form.

More Ferryhill News