A POPULAR Andover man whose body was pulled from the River Anton suffered a fatal heart condition before he fell, an inquest heard.

The body of Brian Allen was recovered from the waterway close to a metal grill at Waterloo Court two days after going missing after a night out.

At the 61-year-old's inquest a coroner ruled the combination of an underlying heart defect and a day of heavy drinking led to his death before falling into the river.

Mr Allen, of Artists Way, was last seen staggering along High Street around 8pm on March 7 after a day drinking with friends including at Wetherspoons.

His brother Philip reported him missing the following day after he failed to show up for a family trip to Salisbury.

His body was found at 1pm on March 9 after a major search involving the police, fire service and specialist divers.

An post mortem revealed the former factory worker had more than three times the drink driving limit of alcohol in his urine while heart showed evidence of a vulnerability to arrhythmia.

Pathologist Dr Hayley Burnley put it down to a “sudden cardiac death” coupled with alcohol intoxification rather than drowning.

But at the inquest his family raised concerns that the police search had been delayed by nearly three hours on the morning before he was found.

DC Marcus Baker based in Winchester told the inquest he was unable to answer for his colleagues in Andover.

Recording a natural causes death Hampshire coroner Grahame Short said it was difficult to determine when he fell into the waterway.

But he added: “It may be that a thorough search should have started earlier.

“But it wouldn't have made a difference because he had died on that evening.”