A PENSIONER struggling to come to terms with his wife’s worsening dementia killed himself by walking into the sea – a place they used to visit together.

The body of Howard Dalton, aged 72, was discovered close to the shoreline at Hengistbury Head on May 24 this year.

Police, coastguard and the RNLI carried out an extensive search the previous day after the Southampton man’s red Ford Focus was discovered abandoned at the quayside at Mudeford Quay.

The keys were inside and a man’s overcoat was found neatly folded-up, with a pair of glasses on top, near some stone steps leading to the water.

Speaking at Bournemouth Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, Mr Dalton’s stepson, David Denney, described his mum and Mr Dalton’s wife Valerie as “the big factor” in his stepfather’s life.

“When he saw he was losing her, it was the end of his world,” he added.

Mrs Dalton first started showing signs of dementia after her husband retired from his position at a Southampton bank years earlier, the hearing heard.

“Howard was very eccentric but they loved one another very much. He coped very well to start with, he cared greatly for mum,” said Mr Denney.

Then Mrs Dalton suffered a stroke, and following a subsequent fall and lengthy hospital stay, she was eventually moved into a dementia care home, where her condition deteriorated.

The court heard Mr Dalton’s visits could be traumatic, with his wife insulting and shouting at him, not knowing who he was.

“I felt this scenario was too much for Howard to bear,” said Mr Denney.

“Mum was distressed and couldn’t understand why she was not going home. Howard was also often distressed.” The day before he drove to Mudeford Quay, Mr Dalton experienced a “particularly distressful” visit with his wife, the court heard.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Bournemouth Coroner Sheriff Payne, said: “It was very clear he has deliberately entered the water and he has taken his own life.”

Judith Livingstone, information and advice manager for Age UK Bournemouth, urged anyone affected by dementia and its consequences to seek help.

She said: “There are a lot of services out there offering help including respite care, financial advice or just someone to talk to. “The first call is often the most difficult to make because people feel they are admitting they are not coping but it is possible to look at things differently if you have some help.”