A MOTORIST was killed in a freak accident when a metal shackle smashed through his windscreen and hit his head, an inquest heard.

David Bennett-Rice, 43, died instantly on the A334 near Wickham as he was driving home from work.

Mr Bennett-Rice, a painter and decorator, was in his Rover Metro when the shackle crashed through the glass, hit the steering wheel, then him and flew out of the rear window, the inquest was told.

Despite an extensive police inquiry, it is still unclear how the accident happened.

Officers were unable to establish whether the shackle fell from another vehicle or was flipped up by the wheels of another vehicle.

Witness Andrew Brennan, from Waterlooville, was driving behind Mr Bennett-Rice on May 4.

He told the inquest: "I was heading towards Wickham. When we reached the junction with Botley Road, my passenger brought to my attention that the car in front had veered across the road.

"I pulled over down the road as there was nowhere near to stop, used my phone to call the emergency services and turned back. On reflection I did see a flat bed lorry with machinery on it drive in the other direction at around the same time the incident happened."

Mr Bennett-Rice left a partner, Catherine Walton, 45, a step-daughter Ellie, 14, and two sons, five-year-old George and four-year-old Joseph. He also had another son Ricky, 14.

The inquest in Winchester heard that officers found the shackle at the side of the road.

PC Andrew Johnson said the piece would have been used on heavy goods lorries or on recovery vehicles.

He said: "There would have been no time to react to the airborne shackle. This is one of the few incidents I have dealt with that is a tragic accident."

Christopher Campbell-Wilkinson, deputy assistant coroner for Central Hampshire, said: "Every death is a tragedy, but this one was more tragic than most as it was most sudden and unexpected."

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.