A STOURPORT dad who was found drowned in the River Severn a month after he went missing had suddenly begun 'acting strangely' moments before he disappeared, an inquest heard.

Carpenter Thomas Bates of The Birches, Stourport, had become unaccountably 'distressed and paranoid', according to one of the last people to see him alive on March 3rd this year.

Suddenly he climbed over a garden wall and was last seen running towards the River. His body was found on the river sandflats at Overton Farn, Arlingham, Gloucestershire, on April 1st, the Gloucester inquest was told.

Post-mortem and toxicological tests revealed he had alcohol and cocaine in his body. The 30-year-old's death was due to drowning.

On November 2, the assistant Gloucestershire Coroner Roland Wooderson heard that Thomas was working in the Chepstow area in early March and at a pub in the town on March 2 he met a group of Severn Tunnel workers and had some drinks with them.

One of the tunnel contractors, Jardslan Grabias, stated to the inquest that he recognised Tom from the photograph that had been published with the missing person report in the local media. He said he contacted the police to tell them he had met up with Tom during the evening of March 2.

Mr Grabias stated “On March 2, this year we had decided to go out as this was our last night in Chepstow. We met up at The Bell Hanger, the Wetherspoon’s pub in the town. During the evening I went outside for a cigarette and I noticed a man sitting on his own.

“We started talking and he told me his name was Tom. I had never seen or spoken to him before. We had a general conversation about our respective trades and he said that he was also working in the local area as a carpenter.

“Tom appeared lonely and I invited him to join me and my colleagues. After we had a few beers we decided to leave. It was decided to go to Tesco and purchase some more beers.

“I left Wetherspoon’s with Tom and he had a small black vehicle in the car park and he drove us to the supermarket. I bought some beers and Tom bought a bottle of rum. I am unsure how he paid for this as he used a different checkout.

“From Tesco we walked through the car park towards the church. Tom left his car where it was, which I thought was odd.

“He appeared puzzled when I enquired was it safe to leave it there. We walked past the church to Lower Church Street, where my accommodation was. I went in to use the toilet and when I returned Tom had entered and found himself in the living room.

“I began regretting that Tom had accompanied me as I had to work the next day. I had a few beers and a bit of rum. I don’t know what Tom consumed. We had general conversation, but nothing was memorable. He didn’t talk about his life or family. He didn’t discuss any plans, nor where he was staying.

“We were in the house for an hour before Tom took himself to the toilet upstairs. When he came out he began acting strangely. He seemed distressed and paranoid and I took him outside for a cigarette. His behaviour got worse as he kept looking up at the windows as if somebody was watching him.

“I didn’t know what had changed. We went inside for a couple of minutes before returning to the garden. He now appeared vacant as if he wasn’t there.

“Then all of a sudden he climbed up the wall at the back of the garden and disappeared. I was now shocked and didn’t know what was going on. I tried to climb up the wall to see where he had gone, but couldn’t.

“His behaviour seemed really strange to me. I went inside and eventually went to bed. I later noticed that the house key had gone missing and the card for the WiFi details. I didn’t know Tom had logged into the internet, but I have since been told that he had done so.”

Worcester News: Police launched an appeal to find Mr Bates Police launched an appeal to find Mr Bates (Image: West Mercia Police)

Neighbour Douglas Mayo told the inquest he believed Mr Bates had entered his garden just after midnight in the early hours of March 3. He said that he heard the back gates rattling and went to investigate. He saw a man running off towards the river front.

“Nothing had been damaged or stolen and I didn’t think any more about this until my grandson found Mr Bates’ wallet nine days later. It contained a bank card in the names of Bates. I immediately contacted the police and I also gave them the relevant CCTV footage," Mr Mayo stated.

Detective Sergeant Sophie Dawkins of Gloucestershire Constabulary stated that on April 1st she attended the bank of the Severn, where paramedics had attended after a man’s body was found by a member of the public. The body was officially recorded as deceased at 3.59pm.

DS Dawkins stated that no suspicious injuries were found on the man.

She said that while waiting for the funeral director to arrive she was approached by one of the lifeguard members who informed her that the body could be that of a missing man, Mr Bates, who had last been seen in Chepstow almost a month earlier and had been reported missing by his partner Danielle Parks to West Mercia Police on March 5.

The inquest was told that when Mr Bates’ phone and his car were located in Chepstow, Gwent Police issued a missing person’s appeal.

The body of Mr Bates was identified after his mother, Carol, provided some photographs of him displaying his tattoos.

A post-mortem was carried out by Dr Matthew Beesley who stated that Mr Bates’ body had begun decomposing but he was still able to establish that he had inhaled river water prior to death, consistent with that of drowning.

Dr Beesley said that toxicology samples had been taken and revealed that Mr Bates had consumed a quantity of alcohol prior to death.

Dr Beesley said that Mr Bates had consumed a quantity of cocaine at some point prior to death, but he couldn’t establish that the use of the drug had an effect on his state of mind at the time.

Dr Beesley concluded that the medical cause of death was drowning.

The Assistant coroner for Gloucestershire Roland Wooderson told Mr Bates' family, who had travelled from the Midlands, that he would record a narrative conclusion.

His conclusion was “Mr Bates, of The Birches, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire died on the banks of the River Severn at Arlingham on April 1, 2023. The medical cause of death was drowning.

“Mr Bates had been reported to West Mercia Police as a missing person on March 5, 2023. It was later established by police that his vehicle and phone were located in Chepstow area. The missing person report was then transferred to Gwent Police.

“Tom was found on the sandflats near Overton Farm on April 1, 2023. Paramedics attended and confirmed his death at the scene. There were no suspicious injures to his body."