THE family of a man found dead in the River Avon will probably never know exactly how the tragedy happened.

Father-of-two Paul Smith, 34, of Kenilworth Gardens, Melksham, had been missing for three days when he was found in the river, near Methuen Avenue, on February 1. At an inquest in Devizes on Friday, Wiltshire coroner David Masters said it was impossible to say how he had come to be in the river because there were no witnesses.

Police were alerted to Mr Smith's disappearance when a passer-by found his bag along with an empty bottle of vodka on the riverbank, as well as a footprint in the mud. His widow Laura described her husband as a model father who was brilliant with his children and said she had asked him if he would ever commit suicide.

"I'd asked him that question and he said he wouldn't do that to me and the children," Mrs Smith said. The court heard Mr Smith, who worked for Southern Electric, had been on anti-depressants since January. Mrs Smith said: "He said he had to do something about how he felt. I took it as a positive.

"That day he got up and said I can't go to work I've got to get myself sorted out. After about a week and a half he seemed to be coming round a bit and was getting better." Mr Masters asked Mrs Smith if her husband had ever suffered any side-effects from the medication and she replied he sometimes seemed out of it' after taking them.

She described his moods as up and down' the week before he went missing and said the night before he disappeared she had left him downstairs watching television. In the morning he had gone, leaving his wallet and mobile phone behind.

He is believed to have bought cigarettes at a local shop at 5.30am and was seen walking along the A365 by Emily Jacques. A statement from her was read out in court, which said: "I thought it was strange as I don't usually see him on that road and I couldn't see his works van.

"He looked very bewildered as if he'd fallen asleep in a ditch and didn't know where he was. He looked at me as if I wasn't there."

Police searched the river near where Mr Smith's bag was found and his body was eventually found by members of the Avon and Somerset police dive team.

Inspector Gary Porter said there was no evidence of slippage near the footprint but added there was another area further along the river, which showed signs of disturbance.

A pathologist's report found Mr Smith died from drowning. He had a small amount of alcohol in his system as well as two different anti-depressants, but the levels were not high enough to contribute to his death.

Mr Masters said there was not enough evidence to suggest his death was suicide or an accident because there was no way of knowing Mr Smith's intentions and no witnesses if it was an accident. Mrs Smith said she was still far too distressed to talk about the tragedy.

Verdict: Open