Coroner records a verdict of accidental death following inquest at South Molton Town Hall this afternoon (Wednesday)

The death of well-known Barnstaple saxophone player Mike Collins was an accident, an inquest has heard.

Mr Collins was recovered by the fire service and the coastguard from the River Taw on Saturday, December 3 last year after a passing cyclist noticed his body during the low tide.

He was pronounced dead at North Devon District Hospital that evening, with his cause of death being identified as drowning.

Evidence read out at the inquest at South Molton Town Hall said his hands and feet were not visible for being submerged in the muddy riverbed, and there were footprints out to his location.

MIKE Collins is presented with a new Yamaha saxophone after fund raising efforts by local musicians. Pictured are organisers Jim Jones, Paul Gates, Mike's brother John, his niece Kelsi, brother-in-law Dave Robertson, son Sam Collins, sister Carol Robertson and (front) Ruby and Kaya Collins.MIKE Collins is presented with a new Yamaha saxophone after fund raising efforts by local musicians. Pictured are organisers Jim Jones, Paul Gates, Mike's brother John, his niece Kelsi, brother-in-law Dave Robertson, son Sam Collins, sister Carol Robertson and (front) Ruby and Kaya Collins.

Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death.

She said: “Looking at the evidence and past medical history, I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill himself, rather than he may have been beachcombing or trying to walk on the water. It is not for us to speculate.

“On the balance of probability this was an accident, so my conclusion is accidental death.”

Mr Collins, who was 56 years old when he died, lived with bipolar and had been described as ‘in and out’ of mental health wards.

MIKE Collins plays at the special open mic event at the Wrey Arms organsised for him to thank all his supporters who raised money after he was badly injured in a gas explosion at Trinity Street in Barnstaple.MIKE Collins plays at the special open mic event at the Wrey Arms organsised for him to thank all his supporters who raised money after he was badly injured in a gas explosion at Trinity Street in Barnstaple.

In 2010, he suffered burns to his hands and face after an explosion in the flat above his accommodation in Trinity Street.

A report from Mr Collins’ GP said he believed he had ‘no suicidal ideation’. He had been diagnosed with anxiety but didn’t display any self-harm.

Those supporting Mr Collins in his living were reportedly ‘shocked’ by the news of his death, as he had been ‘bright in mood’ and ‘in good spirits’.

The inquest heard Mr Collins liked to go ‘treasure hunting’, or beachcombing down by the river, and had been told to be careful by those supporting him.

Mayor of Barnstaple Julie Hunt led tributes to Mr Collins following his death.

Long-time friend and fellow musician Jim Jones also made a touching tribute to the 56-year-old.

A tribute gig, which raised more than £2,500 for mental health charities Clarity and Mind, took place in February.