A HIGHLY respected hospital consultant took his own life after struggling with anxiety, an inquest heard.

Hugh Cox, 61, was a consultant in ear, nose and throat and a head and neck surgeon at Poole Hospital.

He was reported missing on June 20 after failing to turn up for work.

An inquest held in Bournemouth yesterday heard Mr Cox had been struggling with his impending retirement.

He was last seen by his wife, Lynne, the night before he went missing, at their home near Dorchester around 11.30pm.

The day prior to his disappearance had been spent with family and Mr Cox had seemed calm, and kept himself busy in the evening but was unable to relax, the inquest heard.

Once the alarm was raised by colleagues the next morning, Mrs Cox discovered a note from her husband detailing his intentions.

A search led by Dorset Police found his car at Ringstead Bay the next day with keys, a mobile phone and syringe found on the front tyre, Sergeant Matt Chutter said in a statement to the inquest.

Seven days later, on June 28, a body was found by a fishing vessel off the Isle of Wight and recovered by the RNLI.

Results from a post mortem showed Mr Cox died from drowning. He also had “excessive levels” of morphine, codeine and paracetamol in his system.

Coroner Rachael Griffin said Mr Cox had visited his GP, Dr Christopher Burnham at Puddletown Surgery on June 15, saying he had a recurrence of anxiety and asked for medication to treat it.

He had suffered similar symptoms back in November 2011, the inquest was told, but had not raised the issue again until this year.

A statement from Dr Burnham said Mr Cox had spoken for “some time” of his worry regarding his retirement.

And his wife, Lynne, also said her husband’s decision to retire had been “difficult to make”.

Mrs Griffin, described Mr Cox as an intelligent gentleman, who “always went the extra mile for all those he cared for.”

She recorded a verdict of suicide.