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The sister of a man found floating in the middle of the Thames next to Westminster Pier is determined to find out what happened to him.
Damien Lewis who lived in supported accommodation, was considered vulnerable by his family but sibling Paula refuses to believe he took his own life last September.
Within two months of police informing Damien's family of their tragic discovery, dad Gary Lewis died of a blood clot in his leg that triggered a heart attack.
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Paula Lewis, toldMyLondon: “He was always calling up asking questions. My dad was trying to find out more about what happened. We think the stress of it all killed him.”
In mid-October, the Lewis family was told Damien’s body had been discovered floating in the middle of the Thames next to Westminster Pier in London.
He was meant to living at supported accommodation because of his severe learning difficulties, autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Officers who broke the news at the family’s home in Dagenham were limited in the information they supplied.
The family were baffled by it all, the stretch of water he was found was around 13 miles from Damien's last known address in Ilford, which is also five miles from the river.
“Mum started screaming and crying asking ‘what's happened?’ going crazy." Paula said.
Details about the state Damien was found and what was known of his final movements have done little to set their minds to rest. The bizarre and mysterious nuggets of information prompt more questions than answers.
“A blow-up boat that was out on the river and spotted something in the water they said looked kind of suspicious,” Paula explained. “They went over to take a look and realised it was someone face down.
"As they were pulling them out the water they [saw] there was a rope tied around each wrist and a dumbbell attached to the rope weighing two kilogrammes each.”
Damien never had an interest in exercise or been known to own dumbbells. He enjoyed eating sweets and playing Pokémon.
Paula points out that 4kg would have had very little impact on his ability to swim let alone sink him.
“He didn't have shoes and socks or a jacket on,” she added. “But he had a bunch of very thin hair tied on the top of his head, which he's never had in his life.
"Part of his autism and OCD was that he wouldn't let anyone see his head for maybe six years. He slept with a hood tied around his head and never moved it. He used to go in the bathroom and burn his hair with a lighter, that was his way of cutting it.”
Paula is determined to get the answers her father wasn’t able to. Her quest for the truth is made stronger by her dad Gary saying he wanted to know what happened to Damien before he died.
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The coroner is yet to rule on Damien’s death but, with the police investigation closed, the family is desperate for an open verdict.
Such a ruling means there is insufficient evidence to determine how the death came about and the case is left open in case further information emerges.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told MyLondon the post-mortem examination confirmed he had died as a result of drowning and “found no evidence of any suspicious circumstances and officers concluded the death was unexpected, but not suspicious".
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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- MET Police
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