THE mother of a man who died while trying to swim across the River Thames in Henley as a bet during a night out says she doesn’t blame his friends.
Peter Redding, 34, from Tilehurst, Reading, drowned after stripping down to his underwear outside the Angel on the Bridge pub before entering the river at about 11.45pm on July 26 last year.
The car salesman had been out celebrating a successful sales week with colleagues from Audi Reading.
Oxford Coroner’s Court heard that he had taken up a £200 bet from his friends, even though the wager was quickly withdrawn.
After the hearing, Mr Redding’s mother Teresa Beddis insisted that it was her son’s decision to enter the river and he wouldn’t have accepted the money “in his wildest dreams”.
She said: “I wouldn’t want those lads to be implicated. He made a miscalculation and that was it. They were messing around, not one of them was serious. They were just talking and asking questions, it wasn’t a bet. Someone said he shouldn’t do it and the subject was dropped.
“Those lads have got to live with it for the rest of their lives and I don’t want them blamed. It was Peter’s decision. He was a daredevil and very determined but he wasn’t short of money and wouldn’t do that for a mere £200. He was on a real high because life was great for him. He was out with his friends having fun but it went too far.”
The inquest heard how Mr Redding, a budding musician, had been for a meal at the Spice Merchant restaurant in Thames Side with 11 work colleagues before going to the pub.
He had been drinking cider, champagne and tequila. A toxicology report showed he had been more than twice over the legal limit to drive.
His friends noticed him struggling when he was about halfway across the river before he disappeared from view. His body was recovered the following morning.
Lee Allum, who was with Mr Redding, said in a statement: “We were outside the Angel for a while when we were talking about how much it would cost to cross the river. Someone offered £200 for someone to swim across and Peter said, ‘show me the money’.
“The money was put down on the table but picked up again quickly. Peter was very determined and when he got something in his head he didn’t let it go.”
The next time Mr Redding’s colleagues saw him he was in the water.
Mr Allum said he left the pub and walked on to Henley Bridge to watch.
He said: “I got halfway across the bridge and saw Peter in the water. I got my phone out to record him and that’s when I noticed he was struggling.
“I got across the bridge to a jetty on the other side and checked for Peter. By that point someone else had got on to the bridge and neither of us could see him. One of the others rang the emergency services.”
Police divers retrieved Mr Redding’s body at about 9am the next day.
The cause of death was drowning, although the inquest heard he would have suffered hypothermia while in the water.
Pathologist Dr Elizabeth Soilleux said in a statement: “The immediate cause of death appeared to be drowning. There was no evidence of significant injury but a smell of alcohol was noted so sent for toxicology analysis.
“The report came back with a high alcohol content, twice the UK driving limit. The level was dropping at time of death and would have been higher when he entered the water. It would have impaired his decision-making and his ability to swim.”
Coroner Nicholas Graham recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Mrs Beddis, who attended the inquest with her husband David and daughter Cara, said: “We’ve got closure. We were very impressed with how they handled the inquest — it was the truth as far as we are concerned.
“From the knock on the door at 3.30am on the morning of July 27 to the final conclusion, we have been shown the utmost kindness and consideration.
“We have been sustained by the support from every aspect of Peter’s life: his friends from his school days, his colleagues at Audi Reading and latterly his friends on the Reading music scene.
“Peter was at the very best time of his life and had achieved so much. He believed he could do anything, he was having a successful time and he was on top of the world. We had his birthday party the week before and he was on top form.
“Peter’s death was a tragedy but he lived his life to the full and has left us with some wonderful friends and memories.”
* Mr Redding’s partner Rachel Weyl is to hold a memorial charity concert called the Redding Festival with his musician friends at the Gateway pub in Greyfriars Road, Reading, on March 1.