The death of a man who died at home alone during lockdown remains a mystery after a coroner recorded an open verdict.

Senior coroner Christopher Wilkinson said he couldn't say for certain what caused William Henderson's death last year.

He said though his instinct was to record 'natural causes', accidental death couldn't be ruled out so therefore he recorded an open conclusion.

William Henderson, known as Bill, was last seen by a neighbour on March 27 2020, on his way to the shops to stock up on supplies.

The 71-year-old was found dead at his flat on Pershore Road in Popley by a police officer on June 16 2020.

Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard on Monday (February 22) that the exact date and cause of Mr Henderson’s death was unknown.

In a statement, his neighbour Robyn Hill said she had known him since she moved into the street in 2017.

She said she’d had a couple of conversations with Mr Henderson. She tidied his “overgrown” garden, which he thanked her for, and he allowed her to use his bin for her excess rubbish.

Ms Hill said that on March 27 she was “standing in the garden and Bill walked around to his back gate and thanked me for tidying it.”

They spoke about Covid and he said he was going to the shops to get supplies.

She didn’t see him in April, but when putting rubbish in the bin saw there was already rubbish in there.

In late May, she used the bin again and noticed he hadn’t put his rubbish out, but wasn’t immediately worried because “he never had much rubbish”.

On June 11, she noticed his kitchen light was on, so thought he was fine. The following week, she asked neighbours if they’d seen him, which they hadn’t, and knocked on the door one or two times but didn’t get a reply.

“Bill was a bit of a hermit, so I didn’t think it was unusual,” she said.

Ms Hill said that in the time she knew Mr Henderson, she never saw him have any visitors, and an attempt to raise the subject of family was brushed over.

However, on later noticing flies coming out of the kitchen vent, and a strong smell, she called the police.

Special Constable Thomas Hicks was one of the responders who attended the property.

The blinds were drawn at the front, and curtains drawn at back. He knocked and received no reply. Mr Hicks arranged for trained officers to attend to force entry, but while waiting, he and another special constable managed to force open the bedroom window.

They noted a “very pungent” smell and found Mr Henderson on his kitchen floor.

A post-mortem noted “some evidence” of alcohol and prescription medication in his body, but far lower than normally seen in fatalities.

In addition, there was “no evidence of any long-standing diseases or acute events that could lead to death.”

Mr Henderson’s GP at the Bermuda and Marlowe practice confirmed he was on medication for high blood pressure, and was considered obese. He was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma in 2010, but in 2015 this was not an active condition.

Christopher Wilkinson said: “Bill appeared on March 27 to be perfectly well. We know that lockdown was then ordered nationally, and it appeared that Bill was not seen after then.

“It’s very difficult to establish exactly when this may have occurred. My view is that it's more likely than not that at some point in May or potentially early June Mr Henderson has died at his property and was not discovered until June 16.”

He said that while Mr Henderson’s underlying health conditions were not “significant problems”, “each may lend themselves the cause [of death] but it’s not possible to establish whether that was the case.”

Mr Wilkinson added that Mr Henderson “may have suffered a fall”, suggesting an accidental death, but again it was not possible to know for sure.

“It seems as though he was trying to leave the kitchen at the time of his collapse,” he said.

Mr Wilkinson said it was “his instinct” that it was “a natural cause of death”, but he could not say with any certainty.

“On that basis, sadly, I have no further or better evidence to establish a short-form conclusion. I am therefore really only able to return an open conclusion.”

He added: “I would like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to Mr Henderson’s family. It does appear he died during a period of national lockdown, alone and in a reclusive nature, as was his character.”