Family tribute to Romford man Charlie Hilder who died after altercation at Lullingstone Castle
- Credit: Archant
The heartbroken family of angler Charlie Hilder, who died of a heart attack after rocks were thrown at him at a picturesque castle lake, have made an emotional plea for people to come forward with any information that could help police.
Charlie, 66, of Romford, was fishing in the private lake at Lullingstone Castle in the pretty village of Eynsford, Kent, when he is believed to have been involved in an argument with two suspected poachers.
He collapsed and died in the grounds of the 15th century building after rocks were thrown, according to police.
The father-of-five had been helping two secretaries of his angling club fill the water with lucrative rainbow trout but he had stayed behind to go out on his favourite boat and fish.
Youngest daughter Sascha, 26, had made him dinner and became concerned as hours passed and calls remained unanswered so she tracked his iPhone to find he was still at the castle.
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The recruitment consultant raced down from the family home and was told by police at the scene her dad had died.
She said: “My heart just shattered.”
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Charlie died on Thursday, May 28, just four days after celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary with wife Lynne, 62.
Lynne said: “My husband was so caring and always had time for anyone. He lived his life looking after people. I lost him because he was so wonderful and doing what he loved - helping people.
“It’s been so hard for us because he was fit and healthy, he wasn’t ill but then he’s suddenly gone. We’re still waiting for him to come through the door like he’s away on a fishing trip.
“We had no way of preparing ourselves. He went out and didn’t come back. It’s been terribly hard during lockdown to deal with this and it has left a massive hole in our family.
“I think we’re all still in denial and struggling to register it because we haven’t even been able to plan for a funeral so there is no closure. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.”
She added: “He retired 18 months ago and thought ‘Brilliant. This year is my year. I can go out and fish’ but the best time of his life has been tragically taken from him too early.
“Fishing meant so much to him. His two friends joked before he died ‘you’ve just helped us put the fish in and now you’re going to help take them all out’.”
Since April 2014, Charlie had been a member of the Kingsfisher Angling and Preservation Society. His brother Dennis is chairman and the pair had been out on the tranquil lake at Lullingstone Castle together “many, many times over the years”.
A security camera at the family home recorded Charlie leaving the house on the morning of his death and waving goodbye in a cherished last moment for the family.
A post-mortem found he died of a heart attack around 6pm.
On Father’s Day, all five daughters – Gemma, 36, Claire, 35, Stephanie, 31, Chloe, 27, and Sascha – laid flowers at a memorial to their dad adorned with tributes outside the castle gatehouse.
Gemma said: “Kent Police have been brilliant throughout the whole thing, especially our family liaison officer.
“When we heard they had arrested two people, it was kind of bittersweet. We’re grateful they have pursued it and hopefully caught the people who did it but it’s not going to bring him back.
“We want to reiterate the police’s appeal for information to help the investigation. If there is anybody that has anything, however irrelevant and small, please bring it to their attention because it might help us and our dad.
“But we also want to give a massive thank you to the people of Eynsford. Everyone there has been amazing and wanting to help.”
Growing up in Plaistow, Charlie instantly had a knack for fixing things through his father’s mechanic DNA and selflessly continued to mend anything he could for anybody who needed it throughout his life, even completing the extension on the family home himself.
Lynne said: “He carried that on and never stopped. He was always mending something. If anything was broken and needed repairing he would have a go - for absolutely anybody. That was just how he was.”
He was the youngest of five children - Harry, 79, Carol, 77, Barbara, 76 and Dennis, 74 - and would often go fishing with his older brothers.
His love for angling evolved from a love for animals, owning tortoises and chickens from a young age. He decided to call one so-called chicken “follow” because it was constantly on his tail, before it turned out to in fact be a goose.
Such was his passion for the outdoors that he was also a Queen’s Scout, the top achievement in the Scouting Association.
Charlie worked as a computer telephone engineer at Plessey and also served for 11 years with the Royal Signals unit of the Territorial Army, continuing to mend and maintain trucks working his way up to become Foreman of Signals.
Despite leaving in 1989, he loved his time based in Wanstead and Colchester so much that he would sometimes wear his green uniform when he went fishing.
The keen-gardener went on to fix cheque processing machines for BancTec before retiring 18 months ago.
Although he tried unsuccessfully to get his five daughters into fishing spending more time getting hooks out of each other than fish, Charlie could not contain his delight when a boy finally arrived in the family in grandson Jaxon.
But the two-year-old’s mum Chloe said: “It’s awful that he will never be able to have that experience. Jaxon called him Granddad Fish. The grandchildren all absolutely loved him. Jaxon still asks where’s granddad. He adored him and is never going to see him grow up.”
Charlie also had two granddaughters in Lucy, six, and Zoe, three, but sadly will never get to meet pregnant Claire’s first child due any day now.
Police arrested two teenagers aged 18 and 17 on Thursday, June 2 on suspicion of manslaughter.
They have been bailed to return to police on July 23 pending further investigation.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are continuing to appeal for information into the circumstances surrounding the death of 66-year-old Charlie Hilder, who suffered a heart attack following a disturbance in the grounds of the castle, on Thursday 28 May 2020.
Det Ch Insp Ivan Beasley said: “We are continuing to gather information to help us establish the full circumstances leading up to Mr Hilder’s death and I would like to thank everyone who has provided us with information, so far.
“It remains important we speak to anyone else who may have attended Lullingstone Castle around this time, who have yet to contact the police. This includes visitors who may have taken photographs on their phones, or who may have video footage recorded on vehicle dash cams.
“If you haven’t already done so, please check any devices which may hold crucial information.”
* Anyone with information that may assist the investigation should call Kent Police on 01622 604100, quoting reference 28-1127. Anybody with video footage can make a report through the Kent Police section of the Major Incident Public Reporting Site: https://mipp.police.uk/ You can also contact Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, or by completing an online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org