An inquest heard today that a landlord from Wiltshire took his own life after facing finanical problems.
Malcolm Levesconte went missing at the same time as a £29,000 Christmas savings fund disappeared. His body was later found off the Kent coast.
Andrew Pate has been at the inquest:
The pub where fund from a Christmas club savings scheme went missing has been closed. The landlord of the Royal Oak in Shrewton in Wiltshire disappeared in December. His body was later found in the English Channel.
An inquest has been opened and adjourned into the death of a pub landlord after he vanished following the theft of almost £30,000 from a Christmas collection.
The body of 59-year-old Malcolm Levesconte was found in the sea off Dover, on Christmas Eve.
Mr Levesconte, landlord of the Royal Oak in Shrewton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, was last seen on December 9 boarding a ferry for France after the theft from the Christmas savings club at his pub.
Wiltshire Police have said they have been working on the theory that he had been propping up his failing pub business with money from the fund.
The death is being treated as non-suspicious.
The inquest in Folkestone heard that Mr Levesconte had to be identified by fingerprints.
A post-mortem examination at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford confirmed his cause of death was drowning.
Rachel Redman, the coroner for central and south east Kent, directed that jurisdiction for a full inquest into his death be passed to a Wiltshire coroner.
Detectives had previously said they were considering the possibility that Mr Levesconte jumped off the ferry after it left Portsmouth.
He had booked a return ticket to St Malo and had boarded the ferry. But detectives said he did not get off when it arrived in France.
An inquest into the death of a Wiltshire pub landlord whose body was found in the sea off Kent has been opened and adjourned. Malcolm Levesconte, 59, disappeared after the theft of around £29,000 from a Christmas savings club at the Royal Oak pub in Shrewton near Salisbury where he was the landlord.
Mr Levesconte was last seen on 9th December 2012 boarding a ferry - he had purchased a return ticket for Saint Malo in France.
Wiltshire Police have said that they were working on the theory that he may have been propping up his failing pub business with money from the fund. Mr Levesconte's death is not being treated as suspicious.
The inquest in Folkestone heard that the pub landlord had had to be identified using fingerprints. A post mortem examination at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford found that the cause of his death was drowning.
The coroner or central and south east Kent, Rachel Redman, directed that jurisdiction for a full inquest into Mr Levesconte's death be passed to a Wiltshire coroner.
The body of Shrewton pub landlord Malcolm Levesconte has been found washed up in Kent. He disappeared earlier this month along with the £29,000 Christmas savings fund from the Royal Oak pub. He boarded a ferry to France from Portsmouth but didn't arrive in St Malo.
Formal identification of his body took place today. Villagers in Shrewton managed to raise enough donations before Christmas to replace the missing savings.
People in the village of Shrewton in Wiltshire who lost Christmas savings of £29,000 are due to receive replacement funds later.
Residents had been saving in a thrift club at local pub the Royal Oak. Police are still searching for landlord Malcolm Levesconte, seen below, who's been missing since early December. They believe he may have taken his own life.
VIDEO: A fund set up to reimburse villagers whose Christmas savings went missing has almost reached its target tonight - but the news has been tinged with sadness. Andrew Pate reports
Police investigating the disappearance of Malcolm Levesconte are considering that he may have jumped off the ferry on the way to France.
Malcolm Levesconte, aged 59, landlord of the Royal Oak Pub, was last seen at the pub on Sunday December 9th.
Detectives have confirmed he booked a return ferry ticket to St Malo in France that same evening and boarded a ferry at Portsmouth.
Since then police have been working with the relevant agencies in France to try to trace him but have not been able to confirm he actually came off the ferry in St Malo.
Due to evidence that has come to light during their enquiries they have become increasingly concerned for Mr Levesconte’s safety and are now considering the possibility that he jumped off the ferry.
Det Sgt Standing, Salisbury CID said: “We continue to treat Malcolm Levesconte’s disappearance as a missing person enquiry but at this stage we do have to accept there is a possibility that he did not make it to France and may have taken his own life by jumping into the sea from the ferry.
“I would like to appeal to anyone who has information to come and speak to us – his family are facing the terrible prospect that he may have committed suicide. It is therefore imperative that we hear from you if you have heard from Mr Levesconte.”
In addition, Wiltshire Police are writing to the 61 people believed to have contributed to the Royal Oak pub’s Christmas thrift club in Shrewton which went missing at the same time as Mr Levesconte’s disappearance.
Officers launched an investigation after they were informed of the theft of a substantial amount of money by a member of the public. Enquiries have established that the £29,000 Christmas thrift fund collected by the landlord of the Royal Oak has disappeared.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Mr Levesconte is asked to contact Salisbury CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 where information can be left anonymously.
Police investigating the disappearance of Malcolm Levesconte are considering that he may have jumped off a ferry on the way to France.
Malcolm Levesconte, aged 59, landlord of the Royal Oak Pub, was last seen at the pub on Sunday, December 9th.
The people of Shrewton say they are "turning their luck around" one week after the landlord of the Royal Oak pub in the village on the Salisbury Plain disappeared.
60 families have lost their Christmas thrift club savings, which were being handled by Malcolm Levisconte.
Some families have lost as much as £2,500.
“This dreadful event made national headlines,” said Carole Slater, chairman of Shrewton Parish Council. “But the response from around the world has been truly heart-warming.
"A bad news story has become a magnificent celebration of the warmth and generosity of strangers. Shrewton is saving Christmas.”
Villagers have pulled together. Working through www.Shrewton.com, their Shrewton Saves Christmas campaign has already raised £13,250 to help replace the £29,000 that police say has been stolen.
With more events planned up to Christmas Eve, the total is expected to rise significantly.
“This is already far more than anyone expected,” said Pete Elston, who is organising the online donation, overseen by Shrewton Charitable Trust.
“We will carry on right up to Christmas Eve because this is the only way Shrewton can save Christmas for our neighbours.”
A car wash was held on Saturday, followed by Church services on Sunday. On Thursday Shrewton Silver Band will give a concert.
On Friday “Shrewton Shines” will be a special event at Rollestone Manor. And on Saturday Salisbury Football Club will collect cash at their home match against Truro City.
“Shrewton is back on the map for the right reasons,” said Ian West, who represents Till Valley on Wiltshire Council.
“This is a community looking after its own in a truly humbling way way.
"TV news crews, radio and newspaper reporters are all here telling the world how such a terrible event has brought people together – a real Christmas spirit that is making millions of people smile.”
Donations can be made here. Follow on Facebook and Twitter - #Shrewton.
Levisconte is still being sought by police for questioning.