A ‘CARING and loyal family man’ died when he was hit by a train only weeks after a fire at the hotel he owned, an inquest has heard.

Stephen Heath, from Penketh, was killed instantly after he was struck by a Manchester to Liverpool rail service near to the new Warrington West Station on the evening of Saturday, March 2.

Warrington Coroner’s Court heard on Thursday, August 8, that the 53-year-old had been suffering from ‘low mood’ after a fire at Heathside Guest House in Bewsey – the family business which he had been a part of for nearly 30 years – exactly a month before his death.

Warrington Guardian:

Heathside Guest House on Froghall Lane

The hotel manager was reported missing on the day he died, having previously ‘seemed burned out, tired and stressed’.

Mr Heath had given away a number of his possessions – including his tablet computer, debit card and watch – in the days beforehand and had contacted an auction house with a view to selling the B&B.

In a statement read out at the inquest, his wife Alison said: "He seemed very worried, like he had a lot on his mind.

"After the fire, everything changed.

"One thing he did say was ‘I’ve got to leave’.

"He was the best husband and dad anyone could wish for – he was loved by everyone, he was very popular and everyone knew him.

"He loved his family very much – he was a family man.

"He kept himself to himself, but if he was your friend he was your friend for life.

"He was very caring and loyal – he put everybody else first."

At around 8.20pm on the night in question, the driver of the 19.46 Northern Rail service from Manchester Oxford Road to Liverpool Lime Street saw a man lying on the tracks near to the Cromwell Avenue railway bridge.

The male, later identified as being Mr Heath, was only around 20 to 30 yards away and it was ‘impossible to stop’ the train in time to avoid a collision.

Mr Heath – who had taken a bottle of gin from the guest house earlier in the day, and had ‘consumed a large amount of alcohol prior to his death’ – was pronounced dead at the scene.

Alan Moore, senior coroner for Cheshire, recorded an open verdict into his death.

He said: "I need to consider whether Mr Heath took his own life.

"There is no evidence of how he came to be on the railway tracks.

"It is equally likely that Mr Heath was in the vicinity of the railway and had somehow fallen, collapsed or even passed out due to alcohol.

"I can’t rule that out.

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"In these circumstances, because I have no direct evidence in relation to his intent, I am going to record an open conclusion in this case."

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, call the Samaritans for free on 116123.