A PENSIONER from Southampton whose death sparked a witness appeal died of natural causes, an inquest heard.

Southampton Coroner’s Court heard how Alan Stanley Mitchell was found face-down in a stairwell after he fell at Hesketh House in Shirley.

Mystery initially surrounded the 74-year-old’s final moments after the former marine engineer spent the evening drinking in the Freeman’s Arms.

He was last seen leaving the pub alone at about 8.30pm, heading home for his tea in good spirits.

But he was then found lying face down in the stairwell. He was taken to Southampton General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

At first officers suspected that someone else was responsible for his death but after making further enquiries, and a subsequent consultant pathologist’s report, attempts to find an unidentified witness stopped.

Consultant pathologist at Southampton General Hospital Dr Eleanor Jaynes told Southampton Coroner’s Court there was no evidence that the injuries sustained in the fall had killed Mr Mitchell.

She said: “He died in effect because his heart had stopped before he fell and that made him fall down the stairs. He had a sudden blackout caused by heart abnormalities.”

Detective Sergeant Paul Harris said that all Mr Mitchell's possessions, including his wallet, in which he always carried a lot of cash, were found on him, leading them to conclude that no one else was responsible for his death.

Mr Mitchell had been married three times and leaves behind three children and two stepchildren.

One of his stepsons, Lee Parry, said he was relieved to hear that Mr Mitchell died of natural causes.

He said: “I was beating myself up thinking that someone had beaten him up. It was just the way he was. He always carried a lot of cash on him.”

Lee paid further tribute to the former Hampshire county swimmer and said: “He was a popular man with a large group of friends. He will be missed by us all.”

Coroner Keith Wiseman ruled that Mr Mitchell died of natural causes.