Open Verdict After Boy Scout Death

An inquest into the death of 6-year-old boy who died on a beaver scout trip has found it is still not known exactly what happened.

A senior Scout Association official said child-counting procedures had been tightened after the boy died during a supervised woodland walk.

Alan Lock drowned after getting into the River Stour in Sudbury, Suffolk, in June 2009, an inquest in Bury St Edmunds heard.

The boy, who lived in Acton, near Sudbury, was one of 18 Beaver Scouts being supervised by four adults on a walk through woods near the river.

Coroner Peter Dean, who recorded an open verdict after a three-day hearing, heard that Alan was not spotted missing for more than 30 minutes.

He was told that one "head count'' was taken - just after the start of the 45-minute outing - and heard that the most senior leader involved did not know how many children were taking part in the walk.

The inquest also heard that supervisors had read risk assessments written about the walk.

Scout Association District Commissioner Stephen Dodd said the "tragedy" had led to "significant reflection''.

"The basic procedures of good group management were in place,'' Mr Dodd told the inquest.

"But I would recognise that the frequency of some of these, such as head counts, were not as sufficient as they should have been.''

He added: "Since the tragedy the Scout Association has reflected significantly on the head-counting guidance procedures that are issued to leaders. We now have, within the association, much clearer guidance.''

Dr Dean also suggested that more head counts should have been carried out and said risk assessments should have been read. He said The Scout Association should take account of the issues raised.

A Scout Association spokesman added, after the hearing: "Very sadly, Alan Lock died in our responsibility.''

However, he said 400,000 children took part in scouting activities every week and stressed that such tragedies were "extremely rare''.

Police said they could not establish how, when or why Alan got into difficulties.

Two leaders heard a "metallic noise'' as the group crossed a bridge and had checked the river, the inquest heard.

Children's accounts mentioned "a splash'' and one child had told police about Alan being "pushed''.

However, Dr Dean said the childrens' accounts were inconsistent and could not be relied on.

Post-mortem tests showed that Alan had heart problems and almost-certainly died soon after hitting the water, the coroner was told.