A CORONER recorded an open verdict following the death of man who was found on the hard shoulder of a motorway, beneath a bridge.

Thomas McNicholas (65), of no fixed abode, was taken to hospital the day before he died after being found by police on the wrong side of the walkway on a bridge over the M66.

Mr McNicholas had left the home he shared with his long term partner Miss Angela Foster, in Stubbins Street, Ramsbottom, three weeks prior to his death.

In the early hours of November 22 last year, police on patrol near Peel Brow, Ramsbottom, found Mr Nicholas standing on the bridge.

The inquest in Bury last week, heard that Mr McNicholas told police he was feeling depressed and thinking about jumping. He was taken to Fairfield General Hospital and looked at by registered mental nurse Phillip Kingman. Mr Kingman told the inquest: "Mr McNicholas said he had no mental health problems and his current problems were social factors, and by alleviating these factors he would feel better."

Mr McNicholas also complained of feeling light-headed and dizzy, and doctors at the hospital thought that this might have been because of hypertension. Mr McNicholas was told to contact his GP and help was sought to find him accommodation.

Mr McNicholas was not known to have suffered mental problems in the past, but had been prescribed anti-depressants in 1992 following the death of his wife.

Later, Mr McNicholas was seen on the bridge near Peel Brow. Driver, Derek Howarth, pulled over to see if he could help but realised Mr McNicholas was then lying on the hard shoulder.

The emergency services were called but Mr McNicholas died the following morning from multiple injuries.

Coroner Simon Nelson recorded an open verdict saying: "I cannot be sure, beyond all reasonable doubt, if Mr McNicholas jumped or fell from the bridge."