A POLICE officer has been praised by a coroner for bravely wading in to freezing water at a Hampshire beauty spot in a desperate attempt to rescue a drowning man.

PC Jason Lawton plunged into water at Bishop’s Waltham Ponds when he spotted the body of pensioner Charles Vince floating in the water, an inquest heard.

The officer then dragged him out to the shore where he administered CPR to the 87-year-old until paramedics arrived.

Hampshire coroner Grahame Short praised PC Lawton for his actions, despite ruling that Mr Vince, a widower who was suffering from mental health problems and dementia, was already dead before he got to him.

The Southampton inquest heard how police were called to the lower pond off Station Road on the morning of November 4 last year.

Passer-by Nicola Thorne alerted them after seeing the pensioner, of Penfords Paddock, Bishop’s Waltham, narrowly avoid being struck by a truck on his way down to the pond at 11.45am.

Fisherman Glyndur Walker saw the pensioner sitting on a jetty dangling his legs in the water but assumed he had left the scene when he saw he had disappeared.

PC Lawton told the inquest he arrived to find a heel of a shoe “bobbing” in the water.

He waded in and dragged him to the shore but was unable to resuscitate him. He told the inquest: “It is my belief is that he was already dead.”

Community health nurse Ruth Brownlie told the inquest how the retired forklift truck driver suffered from psychosis, depression and dementia.

He had previously talked of ending his life and had become worried about council tax bills in the weeks before his death, the inquest heard.

The coroner praised PC Lawton for his efforts and said: “His actions were very brave.

“There’s much criticism of people who haven’t attempted to save people’s lives due to health and safety reasons and he didn’t have any concerns for his own safety and went into the pond to try to save him.”

Recording a suicide verdict, he added: “He must have waded into the pond and deliberately drowned.”