A SOUTHAMPTON man walked into the River Itchen and drowned himself just days after he was arrested amid claims of historic sex abuse against children.

An inquest heard how Barrie Thompson, of Windbury Road, Millbrook, was found at Woodmill Outdoor Activities Centre nearly 10 days after he drowned – having text a police officer to say “By the time you get this I’ll be dead”.

Winchester Coroners Court heard how Mr Thompson had been arrested on May 12 and bailed in relation to the allegations that he vehemently denied.

His partner, Joanne Hayes, told the inquest Mr Thompson – a former commercial cleaner – was “a good guy”.

She told the inquest they had spoken about trying to get her children back after they’d been taken into care before he went missing on May 16.

She told the hearing: “He always helped out when you needed any help. He was there for his family and friends.

“He was denying everything. He was very upset. The last conversation, he said he was going to find a solicitor. After we spoke he was quite positive. I didn’t think he would do anything.”

Daily Echo:

Barrie Thompson

As reported by the Daily Echo, the 51-year-old’s death sparked a massive man-hunt seeing police launch several units, including a helicopter, marines and specialist search teams.

Before his body was found on May 24, by Woodmill worker Neil Adcock, police found his car.

In a statement read during the hearing, Mr Thompson’s friend Angela Mouland said she thought of him like a brother and her children even called him “Uncle Barrie”.

It said: “He was a happy go lucky person who couldn’t hurt a fly. He said ‘I’m not going down for something I didn’t do’ and there was no way he was going to let Joanne lose her girls.”

Detective constable Robert Munro said their searches followed a text his colleague Det Con Neal Williams received from Mr Thompson who told him of his whereabouts.

The text read: “Neil, give my girls back to their mum. By the time you get this I’ll be dead. I’m not guilty. I’m not going to prison on a pack of lies.”

Carol Copas, Mr Thompson’s sister, said she last saw him at their mum’s home in Sholing Road, Bitterne. In her statement, read during the hearing, she said her brother had tried to take his life once before when he drunkenly drove his car off a dock.

Consultant pathologist Norman Carr, of Southampton General Hospital, recorded a death due to immersion in water and said his examination was limited because of the state of decomposition.

“It was clear the body had been in the water for some time,” Dr Carr said. “Changes like this would take at least several days.”

Recording a verdict of suicide, senior coroner for south Hampshire, Grahame Short, said: “The evidence in this case is not straight forward. Given the messages he left I’m sure that Barrie deliberately drowned himself and no other person was involved.”