A man drowned in a bath full of baked beans while raising money for Prince William’s air ambulance service, an inquest heard yesterday.
German Heinz Muller, who has lived in Suffolk most of his life, wanted to raise £300 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, which currently boasts Prince William as one of its pilots.
But an inquest at Ipswich Coroner’s Court heard Mr Muller died a terrible death when the charity stunt in a village pub near Ixworth went tragically wrong.
Coroner Lorraine Fisher, 34, was told an old iron bath had been placed in the public bar at the Dog and Duck pub in Little Brimmer – and filled with 500 tins of baked beans, which were donated by a local supermarket because they were passed the sell-by date.
Mr Muller, an electrician from Bury St Edmunds, had to strip to his boxer shorts and lay in the bath for 24 hours in order to raise cash for the air ambulance, which provides fast-response emergency cover across East Anglia.
Changing a barrel
But at 4.30pm on Friday, October 9, while the landlord Jeremy Youngman was in the cellar changing a barrel, Mr Muller, 36, fell asleep and drowned.
Mr Youngman told the hushed inquest: “I was only downstairs for a few minutes. When I got back to the bar, I could not see Heinz in the bath. I assumed he must have given up and got out, or perhaps he was in the lavatory.
“Thinking back now it was all very ironic, because I remember Don’t Leave Me This Way by the Communards was playing on the jukebox at the time.
“He was still missing at 8pm when the bar was very busy. Then one of the regulars thought to check the actual bath. It was terribly distressing when the customer rolled up his sleeve and put his arm in the bath, only to find poor Heinz in there.”
Coroner Fisher told the inquest, which was attended by Mr Muller’s wife Deborah, that a post-mortem revealed Mr Muller had died from drowning, and that his body showed no signs of physical injury.
Giving a verdict of “misadventure”, the coroner said: “The pathologist report concludes he must have fallen asleep and simply slipped silently under the beans and sauce.
“I hope Mr Muller’s family can draw some comfort from the fact that his death will be a warning to other charity fund-raisers not to push themselves to the limits of endurance.
“And also of course they must be pleased that a JustGiving page set up on the internet for his stunt has since raised £4,500, far more than the £300 he was hoping for.”
Mrs Muller was too upset to speak to the Suffolk Gazette outside the court, but neighbour and family friend Jack Bentley said: “It’s such a terrible shame because Heinz was a lovely and lively character.
“He was so full of beans.”