A SOLDIER killed as he made his way back to base after a night-out had consumed more than three times the legal drink-drive limit when tragedy struck, a Coroner's Court heard today.

Sapper Matthew Cottrell, 24, suffered "appalling injuries" after being involved in a collision with a single-decker coach on the A35, between Poole and Bere Regis, in the early hours of June 23 last year.

Sapper Cottrell, who served with the Royal Engineers at Bovington, was due to marry his fiancee Debbie Smith, who heard the devastating news of his death while on her hen party in Prague.

The inquest heard how a taxi driver had dropped Sapper Cottrell, from Southport, Merseyside, off on the dimly lit road because he hadn't enough money to cover the £50 fare to Bovington.

The cabbie wasn't aware that the rest of the fare would have been paid, if he had taken Sapper Cottrell back to base. 

Coroner Sheriff Payne recorded an accidental death verdict.

After the hearing, Kathy Tilbury, MD of Excelsior Coaches, said: "Our driver, and all aspects of our business, have been totally exonerated following the outcome of the inquest.

"The result is as we had expected all along and we have fully co-operated with the emergency services throughout the course of the investigation, and the inquest process.

"Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Matthew and his family, but we can all move on from this tragic accident now, lets hope that we can prevent another unnecessary death by raising the awareness of walking down an unlit road, at night facing the wrong way."