A mother was the last person to see her son alive the night before he drowned in Ducklington Lake, an inquest heard yesterday.

James Bartlett, 37, of Corn Street, Witney, was found dead in the lake by a diver from the Thames Valley Police and Rescue Team, last August 1.

The inquest heard Mr Bartlett went for a swim either late on July 31 or early on August 1, before getting into trouble in the water.

His dog, Nightingale, and his clothes were found by dog walker Mark Venn, who called the police at 7.15am.

A verdict of accidental death was given by Oxfordshire Coroner, Darren Salter, at County Hall.

He said: “At the very least, there are some answers to a few of the questions. It seems he was very well known for walking around Witney with his dog.”

Pathologist Dr Susan Davies gave the cause of death as dry drowning because no water was found in his lungs.

The inquest heard dry drowning can occur when a person is immersed in cold water for a period of time having an effect on the heart such as a cardiac arrest or abnormal heart rhythm.

Mr Bartlett also had a history of schizophrenia which, Dr Davies said, could have contributed to the death because the condition was known to increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythm.

Mother June Bartlett, last saw him the night before he died, and she said in a statement read out in court: “James went swimming when he was younger. He used to do a lot of night fishing at Ducklington Lake, and walked his dog there.”

But she added that he was not a very strong swimmer.

Investigating officer for Thames Valley Police, Dc Kevin Middlecote said: “I believe Mr Bartlett simply went for a swim and did not go to the lake to commit suicide.”