Jason Perrin obtains Declaration of Presumed Death in relation to a man who went missing

Tue, 09 Jul 2019

Jason Perrin has been involved in a presumption of death hearing after a Coventry man disappeared during a hiking holiday in Austria in 2012.

Mr John Phillimore, a computer field engineer, booked an outward pursuit holiday with TUI UK, flying to Innsbruck Airport on September 15, 2012, to stay in Mayrhofen, Austria. However, he did not arrive at the airport for his flight home on September 22 and did not attend a guided walk on September 20, 2012, which he had been due to attend.

Jason Perrin represented the Claimant, Margaret Phillimore, the sister of Mr Phillimore.

Mr Perrin drafted the statements of case, obtained an order for information (i.e. disclosure) and attended directions hearings and a final hearing at the High Court in Birmingham, with HHJ Cooke sitting in as a Deputy High Court Judge.

The application was for a declaration of presumed death pursuant to the Presumption of Death Act 2013.  Mr Phillimore was last seen alive in September 2012. His only surviving relatives are his sister and mother.

As less than seven years had lapsed since the last sighting, the court had to be satisfied that Mr Phillimore was, on balance, dead. In that regard, the judgment noted that it had been almost six years and eight months since his disappearance. The court was informed that the family had not heard from Mr Phillimore since the holiday. He was last known to be alive in September 2012. His personal belongings were returned to England, which included his passport but not his climbing gear or boots.

Despite investigations in England, Austria and Italy, there has been no trace of Mr Phillimore. The police saw some potential sightings, but no positive evidence was found.

Disclosure orders (i.e. orders for ‘information’) were obtained against various entities. These showed Mr Phillimore’s employers confirmed that there had been no contact from him. The passport office confirmed no application to renew his passport had been made. There had been no application to register his death. Direct debits continued to be made and payments to his mortgage had been paid back.

The judgment stated that there was sufficient evidence on balance to conclude that the more likely explanation was death.

The judgment added that there was the possibility that if someone wanted to disappear they could, without trace in a former life, but in this case, there seemed to be no indication of a reason to think Mr Phillimore might wish to disappear and, even if he did, there was no evidence that he had taken steps to organise his financial assets. Whilst that cannot be conclusive proof, the judgment said it supported a conclusion that Mr Phillimore had died rather than chosen to disappear.

The judgment concluded that Mr Phillimore was presumed to have died at the end of September 23.

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