A CORONER has ruled that a 92- year-old man whose body was found in the River Tone in Taunton “must have slipped into the water”.

An inquest last week heard how the body of William Evans, of Magdalene Street, Taunton, was recovered by emergency services from the river at Firepool Lock on April 15 – a day after friends had reported him missing.

The inquest heard that Mr Evans had suffered bouts of depression following the death of his wife, Rose, last year but had never expressed an intention to take his own life.

Herta Abrahams, who lived below Mr Williams, said he was a “kind and gentle man” and they would enjoy a chat whenever they saw each other.

She said: “I saw him on the Friday before he was found and he gave me a big hug.

“This was out of character but he was such a lovely, lovely man – I didn’t think it was anything to worry about.”

Warden Jacqui Aviston, who first raised concerns on April 14 that Mr Williams had not been seen in three days, told the inquest: “I don’t think that he would have taken his own life because he was a very religious man.”

Vincent Carrington, the minister of North Street Congregational Church, called the police to report him missing.

He said: “I have known William a long time and in March he had asked me to help with the sorting of his papers.

“He indicated that he was sorting out his affairs but I did not take it as a sign that he was going to commit suicide.

“He was very organised and it just appeared that he knew he may not have much longer to live at his age and wanted to get everything in order.”

He described Mr Evans as “a generous person who was loved by everyone”.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said: “Although his wife’s death undoubtedly had an effect on him, he had never expressed the intention to take his own life.

“He had been in a good mood on the Friday and he had gone for a walk and somehow must have slipped into the water.”