Shopping centre pioneer , 84, died after falling while chasing trolley on golf course, inquest hears

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An 84-year-old Shopping centre pioneer died after falling and banging his head while chasing a runaway trolley on a golf course, an inquest heard today.

Harold Couch from Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, had been playing a round of golf at Denham Golf Club when on the 11th hole his golf trolley began rolling down a hill.

Unable to get a grip on the trolley he fell and hit his head but shrugged off his injury and declined to see a doctor, against the recommendation of a doctor who had been golfing in the group behind and had cleaned up his head injury.  

Two days later Mr Couch, a former European Chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centres and a partner at Hillier Parke, was out on the course again when he complained of a headache.   

Harold Couch, 84, from Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, had been playing a round of golf at a course in nearby Denham when on the 11th hole his golf trolley began rolling down a hill

He collapsed at the 7th hole after telling golfing buddies that he had a pain in his right arm and a numbness three holes before.

Speaking of the initial fall manager of the course, Richard Penley-Martin said: ‘The trolley was running away down a steep slope. Mr Couch tried to stop it but he was not quick enough to get his hands down and fell down face first.

‘Fortunately, there was a doctor in the group behind him who cleaned him up but she felt he should see his GP. He was not sure what had happened but was not concussed, his shirt was covered in blood but he was lucid.’ 

Mr Penley-Martin added that two days later Mr Couch returned and another incident occurred: ‘On the fourth hole he said he had a pain in his right arm and a numbness, before he collapsed on the 7th hole.’ 

Paramedics from the South Central Ambulance Service rushed to the course along with an air ambulance crew before the decision was taken to take the pensioner to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, by road for urgent treatment on July 6.

Mr Couch was rushed into the operating theatre but despite the best efforts of surgeons, his condition worsened as the days passed. The devastating decision was taken by his wife Dorothy, and chartered surveyor children David and Lizzie, to place him on end-of-life care where he peacefully passed away on July 23.

Denham Golf Club where Mr Couch suffered a fall and later collapsed on July 6 2020

Denham Golf Club where Mr Couch suffered a fall and later collapsed on July 6 2020

Mr Couch was a partner at Hillier Parker and former European Chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centres, majorly contributing to the property world.

He served as chairman of ICSC Europe from 1991 to 1998, and he chaired the 1998 ICSC European Conference and the 1995 ICSC World Congress, both held in Vienna.

Mr Couch worked as senior retail partner at London-based commercial property consultants Hillier Parker May & Rowden, which CBRE acquired in 1998. The Bentall Centre in Kingston was among the iconic UK retail centers he worked on at the firm. He retired in 1996.

Sitting at Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court today, assistant coroner Ian Wade QC said: ‘Somebody must have been looking after Harold Crouch very well as he was still playing active golf in his mid 80s. He died on July 23 at St Mary’s Hospital not withstanding the extraordinary care and attention from the neurologists in a centre of excellence.

‘He continued the slow and inevitable bleed putting pressure on his brain. He died from a refractory coma and an acute chronic subdural hematoma that was suffered on July 3 on the Denham golf course when, in a moment of reaching to try to grab his golf club trolley before it fell down the hill. He missed and fell, banging his head.

‘The bleeding was not appreciated on the inside, despite the outside bleeding. A doctor in the golfing group behind him advised him to go to his GP but there is no evidence that he visited. Harold was a person of firmness. He did not want to make a fuss and he did not realise what had happened to him.

‘In many ways, dying on the golf course is what many golfers aspire to, in all the ways he could have gone I do not think he would have disagreed with this way.’

In a tribute, son-in-law Andy Watson said: ‘Harold was a giant figure in my family – both as a loving father to my wife and a young-at-heart grandfather to my three boys. Between 1996 and 2004, I worked as a retail property specialist and got to properly understand what a hugely respected figure he was in the shopping centre world. Just like his children, Lizzie and David before me, I found his passion for property was both infectious and inspiring.

‘For me, Harold’s unusual professional legacy was to have been well ahead of his time. Many years before the existence of what corporations now recognise as ‘cross border business’, Harold Couch was already doing cross border business. It was something of a life mission. Britain’s entry to the EEC was to shape the career of the young shop negotiator who joined Hillier Parker, May and Rowden in the 1960’s.

‘From leasing small shop units in East London to chairing Europe’s International Council of Shopping Centres, his swift journey was a story in itself. The international dimension was all the more remarkable as foreign language skills were not his thing.

Mr Wade returned a verdict of accidental death.

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