MYSTERY surrounds the death of a Bournemouth man whose car hit a tree on the A35, an inquest has heard.

The coroner’s court at Stafford Road heard on Tuesday that Robert Taylor, 66, of Sway Gardens, Throop, died after his Ford Focus left the road near Bloxworth at around 7.45am on April 14.

In a statement read to the court, Stuart Collins, who was first on the scene, said: “I saw a plume of what I initially thought of as smoke about half a mile ahead. As I drew closer the smoke grew worse and I realised there was a car wrapped around a tree on my nearside. I got out and saw a male slumped against the steering wheel.”

Mr Taylor’s widow Lee told the inquest that her husband had been known to go off in his car without warning and in February had disappeared for three days. She said he had considered suicide in the past.

On the morning of the crash Mr Taylor had left their home before Mrs Taylor awoke.

She said: “I looked out and the car was gone. I just thought he had gone for a drive again. He took all his normal stuff, his phone, his glasses and his big coat. He had locked the front door, everything was normal.”

PC Rodger Clark, a collision investigator. said tyre marks implied that the brakes of the Ford were not applied. He said it was possible that Mr Taylor, who was not wearing a seat belt, fell asleep.

Recording an open verdict, coroner Sheriff Payne said that Mr Taylor had shown some signs of depression, but added: “I cannot be sure that he died as a result of an accident in this case. I cannot say that he deliberately steered off the road; I need far more positive evidence of that. I am far from satisfied that he deliberately did this.”

Dual tragedy

MR Taylor’s death was one of two tragic events that unfolded on the morning of April 14.

Although it did not form part of the inquest into his death, it was confirmed at the time that a fire engine travelling to the scene of the A35 accident was the one involved in a crash on the B3075 near Morden Park Corner which killed Ally Mullany, the headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic Combined School in Parkstone.

The date for the inquest into her death has not yet been fixed.