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Police making inquiries into death of Suffolk legal officer

An inquest into the death of David White, a senior legal officer at Suffolk County Council who was found dead in Butley Woods last month, has been opened and adjourned “pending police and partnership agency inquiries”, Suffolk Police said today.

This morning the Daily Mail specifically linked Mr White’s death with Andrea Hill’s leave of absence from the council in a headline reading: “£218,000 town hall chief is told to stay at home in ‘staff suicide probe’.’

There is little new in the Daily Mail story which is generally what has already been said in many newspapers and local government publications except for the explicit link and reference to an inquest.

The Mail said Andrea Hill, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, was “told to stay at home on full pay while an inquiry looks into the death of David White, the acting head of the Tory-run authority’s legal department”.

An independent inquiry  has been set up by the council (“partnership agency”) to investigate complaints about the treatment of staff in the legal department made in an anonymous letter after Mr White’s death. No detailed information about the inquiry, who is carrying it out, the terms of reference or how long it will take, has been issued by the council.

Mr White had been given additional responsibility as interim monitoring officer (one of the key local government posts) after the sudden resignation of Eric Whitfield and another official, Graham Dixon, the director of resource management at the end of March.

These resignations were quickly followed by that of Jeremy Pembroke, leader of the council.

A few days later, on April 4, the body of Mr White was found in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge (Evening Star). In an email to staff Ms Hill said the police had confirmed a sudden death without suspicious circumstances, believe to be suicide.

Ms Hill was was expected to return to work last week after a holiday but was asked to remain at home on extended leave.

Suffolk Police today confirmed to Wordblog that an inquest had been opened and adjourned to a date to be fixed, pending inquiries. The spokesman said they did not know when the inquest would be held but a press release would be issued when the date was fixed.

Police inquiries are normal in deaths where suicide is suspected.  The inquest into Mr White’s death would be expected to examine whether personal or work issues contributed to his death.

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