An off-duty police community support officer told an inquest how he battled to save a man from a burning car in Holt this spring.

PCSO Jonathan Bintcliffe, who is based in Bath, was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Holt man Colin Hancock, which recorded a verdict of suicide.

Unemployed Mr Hancock, 50, of The Midlands, had problems with alcohol abuse and had made previous attempts to take his life, the inquest in Salisbury heard on Tuesday.

He was attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, was seeing his GP at Bradford on Avon Health Partnership, and had been prescribed anti-depressants.

On April 29 at about 1.40pm, PCSO Bintcliffe was travelling on the B3107 from Holt towards Melksham when he saw a plume of white smoke above the tree line.

A car flashed its headlights at him and he soon saw a car in a layby and three people standing by it.

“There was smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle,” he told the inquest.

“Due to it being full of smoke, I couldn’t see through the glass. I tried the door handle, but it was locked.”

He got a jack from his car, smashed the driver’s window and found Mr Hancock in the front seat. The other people called an ambulance and blocked the road with their cars.

PCSO Bintcliffe added: “I was hit by quite toxic smoke as I leant in. I had to back off through fear of burning myself. I could smell toxic fumes and burning flesh. I was aware his clothes were smouldering and the flames were climbing, coming across the roof of the car.

“I said to him, ‘you are going to be OK. I am going to get you out’, but he didn’t respond or acknowledge.”

He dragged Mr Hancock from the burning car and prepared to do CPR.

PCSO Bintcliffe said: “To my astonishment, he was breathing. When I pulled him out of the vehicle, I thought he was dead.”

An air ambulance arrived and Mr Hancock was taken to hospital, but died on May 2 at Morriston Hospital in Swansea of multiple organ failure and severe fire-related burns.

Ian Singleton, assistant coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said at the inquest: “I have heard evidence of how he was found in a locked vehicle on fire, which had been badly affected by smoke.

“I have heard from witnesses who saw the interior of the vehicle and saw the fire started in the rear of the vehicle.”

He stated he was satisfied the fire had been started by Mr Hancock with the intention of taking his own life and recorded a verdict of suicide