MYSTERY will always surround the death of a York pensioner who drowned in a river after being dogged by health fears.

The body of Hugh Patrick McCardle was fished out of the River Ouse last November following a huge police search launched when his car was found abandoned nearby.

The 66-year-old former scaffolder from Haxby had twice overdosed on prescription drugs in the weeks before his death, although he had insisted he did not want to kill himself.

But an inquest heard he had become depressed because of worries about his health and was being visited daily by a mental health team in the days before he died. On November 30, five days after he had last been seen, his body was discovered in the Ouse near Poppleton Business Park.

In a statement, mental health nurse Annie Dobson said she had checked on Mr McCardle following the twin overdoses.

She said: "He said those incidents were errors and he just wanted to get better, but his mood was flat and he spoke in a mumbling way - Mr McCardle's son said his father was a man of few words who played his cards inside his heart.

"He denied any ideas of harming himself, saying he was taking things one day at a time and could see a future. The day before he was reported missing, he told me See you tomorrow'.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Gerard Garry, of North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust's crisis resolution and home treatment team, said Mr McCardle explained his overdoses by saying he had felt ill and made mistakes over the amount of medication he was supposed to take.

"He had been concerned about his physical health, particularly a heart condition he may have been suffering from, and said there were times when he had wished himself dead, but he had dismissed them," he said.

"His doctor felt it was a fear of what might become of him which was causing him to worry. When he was admitted to hospital following one overdose, he said I have no responsibility for it - I didn't want to die'.

"We decided he should not have to remain in hospital but should receive extensive treatment at home, and he and his family agreed with this. He accepted he had a depressive illness but wanted to get himself right."

York coroner Donald Coverdale recorded an open verdict.

"The difficulty is that there is no evidence of when, where or how he entered the river," he said.

"It is clearly possible that he took his own life, but he left no note indicating that he wished to do so.

"Who knows, he may have been walking along the riverbank, slipped and fallen in.

"There is simply not sufficient evidence to support a verdict either of suicide or accidental death."