The body of a missing man was found by the side of a railway line - almost three weeks after he was hit by a train.

Robert Thornton, 51, had been reported missing from Stoke-on-Trent and was last seen alive three days later on the evening of September 28.

He had previously last been seen in a Stoke-on-Trent suburb, Etruria, on September 21, and regularly fished at local fishing spots, Central Forest Park and Westport Lake. He had been arrested earlier that month.

The 51-year-old's body was then discovered by a train driver in the local Staffordshire village of Colwich at 7.40am on October 16.

Now an inquest has found Mr Thornton, a Staffordshire resident, had died 'on or near September 29'. A suicide verdict has been recorded.

British Transport Police (BTP) investigated Mr Thornton's death. He had recently become homeless.

BTP rail fatality investigator Paul Simmons said: “The last-known sighting is from his friend who last saw him at 8.30pm on September 28. He took a phone, took Mr Thornton a small amount of food, and assisted in his welfare and had a conversation.

“He was left at the marina where they had arranged to meet. He was sleeping in a tent, more of a fisherman's canopy. There is evidence to suggest he had been there for some days.

“Enquiries were carried out to see if any drivers had reported any sort of collision, or if there were any trains which captured the collision, but both came back negative.”

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh has ruled Mr Thornton’s death was ‘suicide while suffering low mood’. The cause of death was given as ‘traumatic abdominal and pelvic injuries’.

He said: “In September last year he was arrested and on September 15 was seen by the psychiatric diversion team. He had anxiety and emotional distress but it was not felt he was suffering from psychiatric illness.

“On September 21, Mr Thornton attended the psychiatric nurse again and was assessed, but this time he was homeless. An appointment was made for him to see the psychological liaison team and the homeless team the next day. He did not attend.

“On September 25, he was reported missing. It’s likely he had spent some time using a tent or a canopy in the North Staffordshire area and then had moved down to the Colwich area.”

Mr Haigh added: “The train driver's attention was drawn to something by the line. He looked and found the body.

“He had died from injuries sustained when he had been hit by the train. We do not know when or what train but it's likely it was on or soon after September 29.

“On the balance of probabilities I am satisfied that he intended to kill himself and has killed himself but was affected by his mental health.”

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.