Telegraph : Manchester police chief Michael Todd's final moments: A reconstruction

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Manchester police chief Michael Todd's final moments: A reconstruction

By Nigel Bunyan | March 12, 2008

There was a light covering of snow on the high mountain ridges when Michael Todd set out on his tragic last ascent of Snowdon.

The chief constable of Greater Manchester had reached the summit on previous occasions, most notably while serving as a cadet with the Essex constabulary.

On Monday, seemingly overwhelmed by a crisis in his personal life, he set out with thoughts of ending his life.

It took him less than two hours to complete the 100-mile journey from the centre of Manchester to the picturesque village of Llanberis.

Some time before 4pm he parked his black Range Rover Vogue in the winding lane that runs past St Padarn's Church, put on his climbing gear, and began the long walk towards the 3,560ft summit.

The conditions were already treacherous, with gale force winds of 80mph and snow flurries making visibility difficult.

Investigators now know that at some point on the walk he opened his rucksack, which contained a change of clothes, and began drinking from a bottle of gin.

Mobile phone records also indicate that he periodically stopped off to send harrowing text messages to his wife, children and other members of his family.

The messages sent from his Blackberry became increasingly desperate as Mr Todd, an experienced hill walker, came within 100ft of the summit.

A key part of the investigation will be to determine whether, at the final moment, he slipped into the scree-covered Bwlch Glas, was propelled into it by a gust of wind, or else jumped.

Police and mountain rescue volunteers say there are more obvious locations a suicide might seek out, most notably at Grib Goch, which is only a short distance away.

The North Wales coroner, Dewi Pritchard-Jones, is keeping an open mind on whether Mr Todd committed suicide.

Mr Pritchard-Jones, who is due to open the inquest into the death, said: "There are plenty of places with steep cliffs where people could fall a considerable distance on Snowdon, but Bwlch Glas is not one of them.

"It could be that we are looking at a simple accident involving a person who is very distressed".

It is likely that darkness was falling as Mr Todd stripped off his heavy-duty jacket and dropped his rucksack at the side of the track.

A few moments later he was lying on a shallow, snow-covered slope. It is likely that the gin he had drunk hastened the onset of hypothermia and, ultimately, the chief constable's death.

In the days leading up to Mr Todd's disappearance close colleagues at Greater Manchester Police had become deeply concerned about his mental state.

On Monday, aware of notes he had written to his close family and alarmed by his failure to make contact with them, they asked North Wales Police to begin searching for him.

By lunchtime the following day there was still no sign of him. Then, at around 2.30pm, came the call from a group of walkers who had found the chief constable's frozen body.

Mountain rescue volunteers said he was lying face down and "reeking of gin" when they got to him.

Some of his clothing had been torn from his body; either in the act of tumbling down the scree or because he was suffering from a medical phenomenon linked to hyperthermia.

Known as paradoxical undressing, this involves victims believing they are too warm and feeling compelled to strip off their clothes.

The chief constable's warrant card and Blackberry were found near his body. There was no visible evidence that he had taken any pills.

As a mark of respect the mountain rescue volunteers covered his face for the four-mile trek back to Llanberis.