A BRIDPORT man whose disappearance sparked a major police search died when he drunkenly fell into a river, an inquest heard.

Phillip Guppy, of Alexandra Road, was reported missing at the beginning of December when he did not return home from a night at the Crown Inn.

His body was discovered in the River Brit near Palmers Brewery, following three days of enquiries and police appeals.

The inquest into the 62-year-old’s death heard how he was in ‘good spirits’ when he left the pub at around 11pm on Sunday, December 1. He was ‘euphoric’ after joining in with the pub’s monthly jam session, landlord Simon Warry said.

Mr Warry said Mr Guppy had consumed about eight pints of cider – a little more than he would usually have – but although drunk, he was ‘happy’.

He said before leaving, Mr Guppy had shaken his hand and told him he would see him for his birthday, which would have been on December 6.

But officers believe Mr Guppy fell close to the river as he walked home and stumbled in and drowned. Blood was found on the tarmac around 25 feet from where his body was discovered, but DI Nicola Baker of Dorset Police said the death was not suspicious.

She added: “While intoxicated he has fallen over on his way home, hitting his head and bleeding.

“We believe he has then staggered into the water, where he was later discovered downstream.”

The inquest heard that the search for Mr Guppy involved specialist water officers, the police helicopter, sniffer dogs and the coastguard.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, assistant coroner for Dorset Stephen Nicholls said: “I am satisfied that Mr Guppy’s was an accidental death.”