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Mystery of death at church

A MAN found dead in a churchyard seemed unable to cope with life alone after his mother died, an inquest heard.

William Ritson, whose body was discovered in St Andrew's Churchyard in Crabble Meadows, Dover, on September 4 last year, lost his job, got into debt and was evicted from his home, his sister Susan Elliott said.

"He seemed to go downhill," she told the inquest.

Mrs Elliott, of Downs Road, Walmer, said her brother had gone back to live with his mother after being in the army but had then moved into his own home in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

After her mother's death she helped him move to Dover and find a job but 49-year-old Mr Ritson, who Mrs Elliott said had "had a drink problem for the whole of his adult life", was drinking heavily. "Whenever he got any money he would get drunk," she said.

"He started not turning up for work and every Friday when he got paid he would turn up for work drunk. When I cleared his flat out there were so many things missing. He must have sold everything to get money for drink.

"He was a lovely man but very weak. It was as though he couldn't cope without someone telling him what to do."

No traces of alcohol or drugs were found in Mr Ritson's body and a post-mortem revealed no apparent injuries or signs of violence.

Consultant pathologist Dr Miklos Perenyei said that the cause of death was "unascertained".

Mr Ritson's body was lying in the position of a crucifix, with legs straight and arms outstretched, which coroner Rachel Redman described as "very unusual".

"I have not seen this before and neither has Dr Perenyei," she said.

Mrs Elliott said she had no idea why her brother had been in that position. "It is not even a churchyard where our family were buried," she added.

A report from Mr Ritson's GP said he had only visited his practice once since he joined in 2003 and had no history of mental illness.

Mrs Redman recorded an open verdict and described the case as "very sad".

"The death is more likely to be a result of natural causes but without that evidence I cannot be sure," she said.

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