Doubts remain about the death of a pensioner found in a river seven months after she disappeared.

Retired school secretary Rosemary Perrott, 79, had previously tried to take her life but also suffered from a heart condition. Pathologist have been unable to say what she died from.

Yesterday, at an inquest in Oxford, deputy coroner Dorothy Flood recorded an open verdict after saying she could not rule whether Miss Perrott had killed herself or had suffered a heart attack and fallen in the river.

Miss Perrott, of Sherwood Avenue, Abingdon, was missing for seven months before her body was discovered in the Back Water, off the Thames, south of the town by two canoeists.

Her niece Jane Brown, of Stanford Drive, Abingdon, said Miss Perrott had talked about drowning herself in the months before her death. She said her aunt, who had worked at Cothill House Preparatory School in Frilford Heath, had been treated in hospital after being diagnosed with depression in 1979.

Mrs Brown said: "I was quite close to her. In the last six months before she disappeared I was seeing her virtually every day. She had said that next time she would drown herself in the river."

After the hearing, Mrs Brown said: "I understand that it has to be an open verdict. I feel in my heart that she committed suicide."

Recording the verdict, Mrs Flood said: "She could have chosen to end her own life, she could have slipped, she could have had a cardiac arrest. It's probable that it was intentional - but I don't think it's clear enough to be certain of that."