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Inquest opens into death of missing publican

The body of Malcolm Levesconte was found in the sea Photo: Wiltshire Police

An inquest has been opened and adjourned into the death of a Wiltshire pub landlord who vanished after the theft of almost £30,000 from a Christmas collection.

The body of 59-year-old Malcolm Levesconte was found in the sea off the coast of Dover on Christmas Eve.

Mr Levesconte, landlord of the Royal Oak in Shrewton, near Salisbury, 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 today heard that Mr Levesconte had to be identified by fingerprints.

A post-mortem examination at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford confirmed the cause of his death was drowning.

During the two-minute hearing, coroner's officer Marion Hale said: "On December 24, his body was retrieved from the English Channel by the RNLI to their Dover station. The deceased was identified by means of fingerprints."

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 say he didn't get off when it arrived in France.

The Royal Oak pub in Shrewton Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Following the theft, 60 families were left facing a bleak Christmas but saw the festive season saved after people donated money to replace the stolen funds.

Local families had been contributing to the thrift fund since last January and the village has a strong tradition of saving through local pubs and groups.

Some had saved as much as £7,000, while nearly all had at least hundreds of pounds saved.

It took just four days to replace the missing £29,000 thanks to one anonymous donation of #10,000 and hundreds of smaller contributions from as far afield as South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the United States.

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