A man’s body was discovered metres from his Rickmansworth boat after he fell in marshland following a day of heavy drinking, an inquest heard.

David Painter had spent his 55th birthday consuming alcohol with his friend, Anthony Penwill, throughout July 8 last year.

Mr Painter and Mr Penwill, who co-owned a boat in Lot Mead Lock, were on their way back from the Red House pub, in Watford Road, Croxley Green.

At an inquest today, Hertfordshire Coroners’ Court heard how Mr Penwill, who was described as a "vulnerable" man, went ahead of his friend and fell asleep when he got back to the boat.

When Mr Penwill woke the following morning, he was unable to find Mr Painter and went looking for him.

The inquest heard how Mr Painter’s body was discovered in a twisted position, face-down in surface water in secluded marshland on July 9.

Medical records showed that Mr Painter, who lived in Bolney Street, London, and whose last known occupation was a projectionist, sometimes consumed up to 50 units of alcohol a week.

Hertfordshire Constabulary Detective Constable Jon Oke, who is based at Rickmansworth Police Station, said Mr Painter and Mr Penwill travelled from South London to Croxley Green by train for Mr Painter’s birthday.

The inquest heard how the pair, who had been "good friends" for about 15 years, spent the evening drinking in the Red House before leaving at about 10.30pm to head back to their boat, which was approximately 1.5 miles away.

The inquest was told that witnesses had complained of noise coming from the inebriated pair at about 1am.

Mr Painter and Mr Penwill then became separated as the latter went ahead.

DC Oke said: "Mr Penwill went ahead because he is the more vulnerable one. He believed Mr Painter was following behind but hadn’t checked and went straight to sleep."

DC Oke added: "He (Mr Penwill) woke up in the morning expecting Mr Painter on the boat.

"He thought he might have gotten off and went out to have a look and took the path out to look for him and found him in the marshland.

"He said that he could tell that he had passed away because his body was cold."

Dr Matilda Ralph, consultant histopathologist at West Herts NHS Trust, carried out the post-mortem.

She explained that Mr Painter’s "distinctly abnormal" liver shows there was a history of chronic alcohol intake.

She added that, as Mr Painter’s body was found in a position whereby his head was lower than his torso, there was a reflux of stomach contents.

Dr Ralph said she also believes Mr Painter banged his head on a tree, as there was a cut and bruise on his forehead, leading to possible concussion. Mr Thomas added: "It’s one of those dangers of having too much to drink and that’s why if you find someone drunk you put someone in the recovery position."

Coroner Edward Thomas gave a verdict of accidental death due to positional asphyxiation because of acute alcohol intoxication. He also added that Mr Painter had an alcohol dependence syndrome.