A former News of the World reporter who lifted the lid on the phone hacking scandal died from liver disease after years of alcohol abuse, an inquest heard today.

Sean Hoare, a former reporter at the Watford Observer, was found dead by police in the bedroom of his flat in Langley Road, Watford, on July 18.

The 47-year-old made international headlines last year when he told the New York Times that former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson had asked him to hack into phones, a claim denied by Mr Coulson.

Hatfield Coroner’s Court heard today how, after a period of sobriety, the married journalist began drinking heavily again soon after the revelations were published.

Coroner Edward Thomas read evidence provided by Professor Kevin Moore, a liver consultant at the Royal Free hospital where Mr Hoare sought treatment.

The consultant explained how the former Sun columnist had been sober for at least 12 months until December 2010 but at that point “was using alcohol as a crutch to deal with the pressure of the News International scandal breaking.”

The inquest heard that by the time Professor Moore saw Mr Hoare on July 7, he was in severe decline.

Police were called to his flat on July 18 by concerned family members who had not seen or heard from him for five days.

DCI Mark Ross, giving evidence at today’s hearing, told the inquest how officers forced entry into Mr Hoare’s home after looking through the letterbox and seeing him lying motionless on his bed.

A post mortem found his blood alcohol level was slightly over the legal driving limit.

Coroner Thomas told the inquest that the passionate writer had been a heavy drinker due to the culture of his occupation as a journalist.

He recorded the cause of death as alcoholic liver disease and delivered a verdict of natural causes.

A prepared statement from Mr Hoare’s family said: “Sean was a much-loved husband, son, brother and uncle and understandably his death devastated us all.

“He had a special and unique character, he always put others first and nothing was too much trouble for him. He was full of charm and had a wonderful sense of humour.

“We have so many happy memories to cherish, but we will miss him terribly and think of him every day and know he will always be by our side.

“Sadly, as we and his closest friends knew, Sean had not been in the best of health in recent years and we accept the coroner’s verdict today.”