AN INQUEST has opened into the death of a Southampton man found in a river still handcuffed after fleeing police more than two months ago.

Winchester Coroner's Court heard 22-year-old Reece Hillier was found in the River Itchen near Riverside Park in Woodmill Lane on Sunday, March 17.

It has been reported Mr Hillier ran off after being detained by officers in Southampton on January 12, during an alleged drugs probe.

It is not clear if the young father fell in the water during his escape from the police, but officers said his death was not being treated as suspicious.

The brief hearing on Friday heard a report from Home Office forensic pathologist Dr Basil Purdue, which said a preliminary cause of death for Mr Hiller, of Gamble Close, Sholing, was still "unascertained".

The case is currently the subject of an internal Hampshire Constabulary investigation.

Senior coroner Grahame Short adjourned for the hearing for a pre-inquest review on August 2, where a date for the inquest will be set.

As previously reported, Mr Hillier's family has branded Hampshire Constabulary a “disgrace” in the national press, and said they wanted answers.

Hampshire police yesterday said there are no updates on the case.

A spokesman for the force said the internal probe is still ongoing and it is not yet know when it will be concluded.

As previously reported, the police did not confirm how long the body had been in the water but said it had been in the river "for some time".

It is understood an appeal to help find Mr Hillier after he went missing was not sent out to the media.

Hampshire police were unable to give further details, and when asked why the man was arrested in January, the force said it would not be making any further comments as an internal review was ongoing.

Mr Hillier's girlfriend Brittany Bellows and dozens of friends paid tribute to him on social media.

In the online comments Reece was said to be much-loved and a “funny lad”.