THE BROTHER of the Duchess of Cornwall died after falling over outside a New York nightclub after smoking a celebratory cigarette, an inquest has heard.

Today Dr Sheriff Payne, Coroner for Bournemouth, opened and adjourned the inquest into the death of the conservationist and travel writer Mark Shand.

Dr Payne heard the 62-year-old left the nightclub in the early hours of Wednesday April 23 to smoke a cigarette after conducting a successful charity auction.

Mr Shand, who was the chief executive of the charity the Elephant Family, lost his balance and hit his head on the pavement, the coroner was told.

Coroner’s officer Andrew Long told the court: “He had left a nightclub to smoke a cigarette where he appears to have lost balance and fell hitting his head on the pavement.

“He was taken to the Bellvue Hospital Centre in New York City where he died later that morning.”

An autopsy of Mr Shand’s body was carried out by Dr Mark Deverell on Monday April 28 at Dorset County Hospital.

The court was told Dr Deverell had recorded intracranial hemorrhage with a skull fracture and blunt trauma as the cause of Mr Shand's death.

Yesterday Camilla led mourners at her brother’s funeral at a private family service at Holy Trinity Church in Stourpaine, near Blandford.

Camilla and her siblings often spent time together in the picturesque village, which Mr Shand once described as the family's ''centre''.

The Prince of Wales was at his wife's side to support her during the service.

After everyone had entered the church, Mr Shand's biodegradable wicker coffin - adorned by garlands of flowers - was carried inside by pallbearers.

Following Mr Shand's death, Tom Parker Bowles paid a moving tribute to his uncle, saying his death had left ''a massive, gaping hole that will never be filled''.

He said: ''There was no-one like him, never will be. How lucky we all were to have had this giant, magnificent figure in our lives.”