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 in to 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 Decem-ber 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 asphalt around 25 feet from where his body was discovered, but DI Nicola Baker of Dorset Police said the death was not suspicious.

She added: “Whilst 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 – that he perhaps tripped and fell and subsequently fell in to the water, where he drowned.”

In tribute to Mr Guppy, Mr Warry said: “It is tragic that he is no longer with us.

“But he had such a great last day.”

He said the previous monthly jam session was the first time Mr Guppy had ‘plucked up the courage to sing’, but the band didn’t know the tune.

“At the next jam, the guys called him up and unbeknown to him they had learned the tune and played it,” Mr Warry said.

“He was absolutely blown away, so happy with the fact that they appreciated his singing.

“He had a great evening.”