Ben Thompson: Binge drink warning after rugby fan dies in river

Ben Thompson
Image caption Rugby fan Ben Thompson began drinking the morning he went missing

A widow has warned of the dangers of binge drinking after her rugby fan husband fell into a river and died following an all-day drinking session.

Ben Thompson, 34, from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, disappeared after a Six Nations match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, leading to a huge search.

Jo Thompson warned him not to binge drink and "one day he would never come home".

The coroner at Cardiff Coroner's Court recorded a verdict of accidental death.

After the hearing, Mrs Thompson, 38, said: "I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I have gone through. We all go out and have a few drinks but something like this can happen to anyone.

"We would just like to tell other people to be careful, look after yourself, stay in touch with their friends, let them know what they are doing.

"Ben was my husband but I have been left alone because of this tragic set of circumstances."

Mr Thompson, a gas plant worker, had won hospitality tickets through his company and watched the game with friends in February.

He had started drinking at around 10.15am on the Saturday of the match.

Mrs Thompson told the court: "I hate it when he goes away but when he went he kissed me and said 'don't worry, it's only two nights'.

"He was so excited about going to Cardiff and he was overjoyed that he had won tickets to the game.

'Extremely fit'

"He called me after the match, he was shouting and telling me he was on the way to Ten Feet Tall - which was our favourite pub in Cardiff.

"I could tell he was half cut because he kept repeating himself - that was the last time I spoke to him."

Mr Thompson became separated from his friends at around 18.15 that day.

His friends believe the keen cyclist and hiker tried to walk more than 15 miles back to the hotel near Cardiff Airport where he was staying.

Mrs Thompson, who had been married to her husband for six years, said: "Ben was extremely fit and health conscious - he loved being outdoors and climbing mountain.

"Over the last two years his training has got more and more intense - he wouldn't eat any carbs only protein.

"His metabolism was so good - this must have affected his ability to handle alcohol.

"He was not a frequent drinker but he would binge drink with his work colleagues.

"I told him not to binge drink. I told him that one day he would never come home - I didn't think it would actually happen.

"He would rather walk home than catch a taxi - distance wasn't an issue, he would walk for miles if needed."

Mr Thompson's disappearance sparked a massive search across Cardiff.

His last movements captured on CCTV showed him staggering down a dead end lane leading to wasteland and the river.

Debra Sexton was one of the last people to see him alive and said in a statement to the court: "I remember thinking to myself, 'Gosh he's drunk'.

"He was walking side to side, taking one step forward and two back. But he seemed to be walking with a purpose, he seemed to be know where he was going.

"I thought he must be cold because he wasn't wearing a coat, I thought he was vulnerable because he was so drunk."

Mr Thompson's body was found in the River Ely in March.

PC Gareth Davies said when Mr Thompson's pockets were emptied they found a Ireland v Wales Six Nations badge and change from the rounds of drink he had bought.

Pathologist Meleri Morgan said that hitting the cold water while drunk could have caused a heart attack or his throat to close.

Coroner Mary Hassell recorded a verdict of accidental death and said the cause of death was sudden immersion in water having taken alcohol.

She said: "Ben did as literally thousands of other men did on that day, he went out, he watched the game and tried to walk home.

"He just had the misfortune to slip or trip and fall into the water. He died as soon as he entered the water."

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