Kevin James Cain was born in Warrington but had gravitated southwards as a young man and developed a huge love for the capital.
The well-respected senior quantity surveyor settled in Pitstone where he ran the village corner shop Pitstone Stores for a number of years, before having it converted to a home. He lived there with partner Celia and daughter Emma until his unexpected death in November.
Kevin, who was an enormous cricket and rugby league fan, had planned his annual pre-Christmas tradition of meeting with former colleagues to spend an evening in Hertford, enjoying an Indian meal and an overnight stay at a hotel.
Tragically, the celebration on November 14 was to be his last as 63-year-old Kevin suffered a traumatic brain injury while attempting to climb the stairs back to his room.
At the inquest, held in Hatfield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, it was revealed Kevin had considered cancelling the meet, as two of the usual four attendees had pulled out of the plans.
Nevertheless, the evening went ahead with Kevin and a friend of the same name – though his friend later stated the deceased had had some trouble getting his words out during their dinner, and had complained of a headache.
Out of character for Kevin, he left the night out early – though arrived to the Salisbury Hotel where they had both booked to stay later than his friend.
CCTV images from the hotel showed Kevin struggling to get up the first step, but managing to climb the first flight before he was recorded falliing backwards to the ground around 25 seconds later.
Though he had been drinking that evening, his friend had said he wasn’t very drunk. Gaps in town centre CCTV footage of Kevin meant his last moments before returning to the hotel were untraceable.
Kevin was the last person to use the reception area of the hotel that night and with no night porter, he wasn’t discovered until around 7am the following morning.
His immaculate state of dress and lack of obvious injury led hotel staff to believe he was asleep – but emergency services were called and the grandfather-of-one was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Sadly, Kevin never gained consciousness, and the heart-wrenching decision by his partner and daughter to withdraw life support was made on November 28.
Senior coroner for Herts Edward Thomas recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying: “We will never know whether there was some terrible event. He had been drinking – these are all factors which led to a fall causing catastrophic injury.
“Clearly no other person was involved, therefore it is an accident. He seemed to be such a nice man.”
Celia McGiff, who had been together with Kevin for seven years, said: “His funeral took place on December 19 and many friends, family and colleagues were there to celebrate his life and share stories of this fun loving, intelligent, popular man.
“When something like that happens, you don’t get to say goodbye – you just say, ‘see you tomorrow’. We would have done a bit of Christmas shopping.
“Kevin was Christmas. He would plan for the next Christmas on Boxing Day and every year had to be bigger than the last. But cricket was his number one love – it was his religion.”
Celia also revealed Kevin’s two-year-old grandson had just been beginning to call him Grandad, and as a military enthusiast Kevin had been looking forward to taking him to see the changing of the guard in London.
She added: “He looks at photos of his grandad, and we have to keep his memory alive.”
Celia would like to extend her appreciation and thanks to Herts Police who took great care of her and Kevin’s family. She said: “Their relentless search for missing answers and putting together a picture of the sequence of events leading to Kevin’s accident was incredible.
“Also great thanks to Addenbrookes Neuro Critical Care Unit who worked so hard to try and restore Kevin back to his family and who handled our grief with such gentleness on a daily basis.”