The death of a man found naked on a Cornish beach with a sock and headphones in his mouth remains a mystery, after a coroner reached an open verdict.
Retired electrician Alan Eric Jeal, 64, was discovered at high tide on Perranporth beach in Cornwall at about 2pm on February 25 in 2014.
Mr Jeal, who was wearing only socks and one walking shoe, had suffered multiple injuries including a fractured spine before drowning.
Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon reached an open conclusion following a one-day inquest into Mr Jeal’s death in Truro on Wednesday.
She said: ‘I find it is not possible to a criminal standard, or on the balance of probability, to exclude an intentional death, accidental death or the involvement of another.’
The inquest was told that neighbours of Mr Jeal, who lived alone in Wadebridge, heard raised voices in his flat on the day before his death.
They heard a male person shouting, potentially on the phone, for several minutes at 12.50pm before the front door slammed.
CCTV cameras showed Mr Jeal walking to catch the bus from Wadebridge to Truro at 5pm.
He took buses from there to Newquay and then Perranporth, where he arrived at 10.25pm.
The last known sighting of Mr Jeal is believed to be by a CCTV camera in Perranporth at 10.30pm on February 24.
A dog walker discovered Mr Jeal’s body, wearing only socks and one walking shoe, on the beach at about 2pm the following day.
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There was a white sock, along with headphones, in his mouth, while Mr Jeal’s rucksack was later found nearby.
His dark blue jacket, with a wallet containing £95 and a 1950s photograph of Mr Jeal as a child, was also discovered.
His shoe was located in a cave.
Dr Amanda Jeffrey, a Home Office pathologist, said Mr Jeal’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal drink drive limit. He had not taken drugs.
There were no injuries to his mouth that would suggest the sock had been forced inside, she told the inquest.
Mr Jeal suffered injuries to his head and chest when he was alive and there was also evidence of drowning.
These injuries could have been caused by Mr Jeal falling then entering water.
She said the earphones may have been pulled inside Mr Jeal’s mouth if the sock was inserted in a ‘hurried manner’.
The sock could have been placed in Mr Jeal’s mouth as an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.
There was no accidental explanation for it, she added.
A similar pair of socks was found at Mr Jeal’s home, the inquest heard.
Dr Jeffrey gave Mr Jeal’s cause of death as drowning with a background of head and chest injuries.
The death featured on BBC Crimewatch in 2014 but there were only three calls to police following that appeal.
A number of items including Mr Jeal’s mobile phone, iPod shuffle and bank cards have never been found.
He had ordered a weight belt and ankle weights online, which were delivered to his home, but these have also not been recovered.
Mr Jeal left no note at his flat and there were no forensic links to any third party, Mr Hambly said.
He told the inquest: ‘I personally remain open minded as to the circumstances of Alan’s death but I’m confident that all practical inquiries have been conducted.’
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Jeal’s brother Derek said the family will ‘need to get to the bottom of what happened’.