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Inquest jury returns 'misadventure' verdict on homeless man's death

The jury at an inquest into the death of a homeless alcoholic man has returned a 'misadventure' verdict.

Eric Hughes, locally nicknamed Eric the Viking, was found dead by a bench outside public toilets at New Rents in Ashford town centre on the morning of November 9, 2007.

The three-day inquest into his death ended on Wednesday afternoon with the jury of four women and seven men returning the misadventure verdict.

The jury took more than three hours to reach their decision at Dover magistrates court.

After announcing the jury's verdict Coroner Rachel Redman addressed members of Mr Hughes' family who had attended the inquest.

She told them: "I am very sorry you have lost a husband and brother in these circumstances.

"I offer you both, and other members of your family, my sincere condolences."

The inquest heard that Mr Hughes' death had been caused by hypothermia and alcohol intoxication and chronic alcoholism.

Mr Hughes was part for a trio of homeless drinkers known as ‘the three amigos’.

CCTV staff would give them cups of tea and sometimes money for food until managers told them not to, fearing their safety.

But Shirley Cunningham, one of the CCTV operators, told the inquest they always felt completely safe talking to the men.

She said: “They were kind and gentle and not even aggressive when drunk.”

The night before Mr Hughes was found dead Andrew Hollinson, owner of the nearby Undecided bar, had voiced his concerns to the CCTV monitors.

Mr Hamilton told them: “I think he’s going to be dead in the morning by the way he’s shaking.”

Gareth Recht, a CCTV operator, told the hearing: “We had seen him in that condition too many times to mention.”

His colleague Ms Cunningham suggested to Mr Hamilton that he make Mr Hughes a cup of tea to warm him up - she knew he took it with one sugar.

Mr Hamilton, who was thanked by the coroner for his act of kindness, was the last person to see Mr Hughes alive.

The inquest at Dover heard that Mr Hughes, 52, had died of hypothermia due to alcohol intoxication.

Det Sgt William Thornton told the inquest police had investigated and there was no need to proceed with any criminal charges.

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