Wife of Durham School deputy head teacher Mark Bushnell tells inquest his death is 'unfathomable'

The body of the respected 50-year-old was found at a beach near Blackhall Rocks in County Durham on Saturday March 22

Durham Police/PA Wire Durham School deputy head Mark Bushnell
Durham School deputy head Mark Bushnell

The wife of deputy head teacher Mark Bushnell has paid an emotional tribute to her husband and called his death “unfathomable”.

The body of the teacher, who worked at the prestigious 600-year-old Durham School, was found in the sea near to Blackhall Rocks, County Durham, on March 22.

Mystery surrounds exactly how the 50-year-old father met his end, an inquest into his death at Crook Civic Centre heard.

His wife-of-29-years Joanna Bushnell gave evidence and told the hearing he was a well-respected man, who was loved by her and their three sons and “would not dream of hurting himself.”

She said: “We were together for 29 years and were still very much in love. He had so much to live for. He was loved, respected and admired, he loved his job. We had plans for the future.”

She added the family were looking ahead to family holidays together when he went missing from their home in Durham City on March 9.

She said: “This has been awful for us. We can make no sense of it. It is just unfathomable.”

Mark Bushnell, pictured with Joanna (wife) and sons Nathan (in the Samsung/Chelsea shirt), Jonny (in the green stripey shirt) and Jacob
Mark Bushnell, pictured with Joanna (wife) and sons Nathan (in the Samsung/Chelsea shirt), Jonny (in the green stripey shirt) and Jacob

The inquest heard Mr Bushnell had left the home in search of a laundrette after the washing machine at their family home on Clay Lane, Durham, broke down.

Detective Inspector David Cuthbert, who investigated the incident, said the teacher left his home at 11.30am in a grey Citroen C3. The vehicle was captured on CCTV in the city and was last seen pulling in to a picnic area near Blackhall at 12.24.

At 12.27, Mr Bushnell replied to two texts from his wife asking where he was with: “Not be long. Take care. x.”

He came into contact with a dog walker in the area and told them he was off for a walk on the beach.

Shortly afterwards, DI Cuthbert told the hearing, his phone was either switched off or failed.

The teacher was reported missing by his wife and a major search operation ensued.

Police searched the family home as well as computers at Durham School and found no clues as to why he had disappeared, and his body was found partially submerged close to where his car had been.

A post mortem examination revealed he died from drowning. There were no injuries on his body except a bruise on his ankle.

Police concluded there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle said there was no evidence to conclude Mr Bushnell took his own life or that his death was the result of an accident and has recorded an open verdict.

He said: “I just cannot find an explanation for how Mark came by his death.”


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