A MAN drowned when he fell out of his canoe after paddling back to his houseboat, an inquest heard.

Andrew Sydes, pictured, vanished after visiting a friend on a nearby boat on the River Itchen in Southampton.

The 56-year-old had made it across the water back to his home where his capsized kayak was later found tied up and empty.

His body was only found more than a month later but why he fell in and died will always remain a mystery, Southampton Coroner’s Court was told.

PC Nick McKinnon told how Mr Sydes, who was living on a barge where he would keep his kayak moored, was an experienced canoeist.

The former merchant navy electrician had bought a cabin cruiser two weeks before he disappeared and was renovating it.

The inquest heard how Mr Sydes, previously of Millbrook Road West, Southampton, visited Gregory Park, who lived on a nearby boat, shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

He stayed for a couple of hours and had a cup of tea before leaving on his kayak and heading off towards his barge near Northam Bridge.

Andrew Faulkner, who also lived on the barge, reported Mr Sydes missing later that day after seeing the empty overturned kayak.

PC McKinnon said: “It would seem Mr Sydes put his paddle on the deck, overbalanced and entered the water.

“He was trying to transfer from his kayak to a large vessel on a cold, dark night while carrying a bag.”

Despite extensive searches, Mr Sydes’ body was only discovered in the river near to Shamrock Quay on February 7.

The inquest was told that while Mr Sydes had been on antidepressants he had never expressed any suicidal thoughts.

Consultant pathologist Dr Adrian Bateman said that Mr Sydes had taken cannabis and that it was most likely he died due to drowning.

Recording an open verdict, Southampton Coroner Gordon Denson said: “Sadly for his (Mr Sydes) family there are many unanswered questions.

“How he entered the water will always remain a mystery. There is no evidence that he intended to take his own life.

“The speculation is that he fell into the water when he was trying to return to the barge.”

No relatives of Mr Sydes attended the inquest.