A poignant service celebrating the life of consultant Hugh Cox has been attended by more than 200 people.

The memorial, which took place at St Mary’s Church - just yards from Poole Hospital where Mr Cox worked - was packed with friends, relatives, colleagues and former patients.

The 61-year-old, who lived near Dorchester, was reported missing after he failed to turn up for work where he was a consultant in ear, nose and throat, and a head and neck surgeon.

An appeal was launched, however his body was found in the English Channel by fishermen and emergency services on June 28. Those gathered at the church, in Longfleet Road, heard Dr Emma King pay tribute to an “exceptional surgeon, colleague, mentor and friend.”

She also said Mr Cox, a keen cyclist, suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run accident which prevented him from operating again.

“Hugh did not return to operating after his last bike accident, a hit-and-run that broke multiple bones, preventing a return to his beloved theatre.”

Dr King added: “He was a consummate professional, and held in such high regard by so many of us, colleagues and patients alike.

“Hugh was a team player, and both sought and valued other team members’ opinion.

“He was a great teacher, happy to spend time encouraging and teaching in a kind and thoughtful way.”

Dr King also shared some more light-hearted memories of her friend.

“As a registrar I once phoned him to let him know that a slightly challenging patient, who was known to enjoy a tipple or two, had absconded from the ward following major surgery,” she said.

“There was a brief pause, as their often was when I spoke to Hugh, then he told me not to worry, the patient would be back soon as it was almost closing time.”

Monday’s service was also open to members of the public and former patients.

Mr Cox’s brother, Chris, told those gathered: “His loss will be felt by many people, not just his family, and for a long time.

“But we must also try and celebrate his compassion and care, and the love and fun he brought into the world.”

An inquest was opened into Mr Cox’s death, last month, but has been adjourned until January 5.

The court heard how there was some indication he may harm himself when he left his home in White Lackington in the Piddle Valley on the morning he went missing, and the coroner said the cause of death was drowning.

Mr Cox’s first consultant post was in the Royal Navy, including honorary consultancies at Portsmouth and Southampton University Hospitals.

He started at Dorset County Hospital in 1999 before moving to Poole Hospital in 2001.

One of the tributes, from a former patient, read out at the service, was: “In this day and age you hear the word hero thrown around carelessly, but Mr Cox was, without doubt, a true hero.

“He gave my family and I the greatest gift, he saved my life and I wish I could have returned the favour.”