A PORTUGUESE mother drowned in a shallow stream after possibly trying to retrieve a ball she thought belonged to her grandson.

Maria De Fatima Carvalho De Brito was found dead in Astley Brook just days before her 51st birthday.

Her body was discovered floating face up in the water under a road bridge on Eagley Brook Way, close to The Valley, after a police search.

Ms Carvalho De Brito, who spoke little English, had been reported missing the previous day by her daughter, Carla Sofia De Brito Vaz.

Ms De Brito Vaz told the inquest her mother had come to live with her in Bolton in 2003 but later returned to Portugal, where the breakdown of a relationship and a house fire caused her mental health to deteriorate.

She came back to Bolton in 2014, splitting her time between her daughter’s apartment in Astley Brook Close and her son’s home in Stoke-on-Trent.

Ms Carvalho De Brito had been diagnosed as schizophrenic many years previously, but coroner Alan Walsh said there was no evidence she intended to harm herself and a mental health assessment seven months before her death found her condition stable.

On April 21, three days before her death, Ms Carvalho De Brito and her six-year-old grandson were playing football in a car park near Astley Brook when the ball went into the water.

Ms De Brito Vaz, who now lives in Stoke-on-Trent, told the inquest her mother had walked down the fence and climbed over a gate to get the ball from the water — but apart from this she had never been known to walk along the brook's bank.

Ms De Brito Vaz said: “She knew from my son’s ball going into the brook, how to get over the fence.

“I saw a very similar ball in the stream the day she went missing. She might have thought it was his ball and gone to try to get it.”

Ms Carvalho De Brito was last seen on CCTV near Blackburn Road at 9.40am on April 23 as she returned home from buying a loaf of bread at Asda.

Dr Emil Salmo, pathologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital, confirmed Ms Carvalho De Brito died as a result of drowning and said bruising on the right hand side of her face and lower limbs was consistent with falling sideways into the brook from the bank.

She were no signs of a severe trauma or disease which could have caused her death and apart from medication for schizophrenia and depression, no drugs or alcohol were detected in her system.

Dr Salmo said it was not possible to determine exactly when Ms Carvalho De Brito fell in the water and when she died. Police were also unable to establish exactly where she fell into the brook.

Coroner Walsh recorded that Ms Carvalho De Brito’s death was an accident.

He told her daughter: “You and your brother could not have done more to care for and support your mother. I do not believe you could have done anything to prevent her death. It is very sad and tragic that your mother, at 50, who had gone through a lot of difficulty in her life, should die in these circumstances in Bolton.”