Son was already dead

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The parents of a man who vanished after leaving his home continued searching for him for 21 months while his skeletal remains were being kept in a French morgue, an inquest heard.

Devastated Roger and Dawn Hopson searched high and low across Sussex and Kent for their 35-year-old son Piers despite not knowing he was dead.

An inquest held at Eastbourne Magistrates Court on February 28 heard how Mr and Mrs Hopson produced thousands of leaflets which they distributed across villages and towns, including Eastbourne where Piers was a regular visitor.

But all the while their son’s remains were being kept by the French authorities.

It was not until Interpol told the French police that a potential match had been found some 21 months after Piers’ remains had been brought into Boulogne harbour in September 2010 that the family was finally informed.

The court heard the alarm was raised after Piers disappeared from his home in Southwater Road, St Leonards around 3.20pm on January 25, 2010.

He lived in a supported housing scheme for people who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome.

Piers, who also suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, told his carer he was going out to buy some bubble bath but was never seen again.

The man who led the investigation, Detective Inspector Rob Morland, said, “I was hoping that he had taken refuge on the rocks.

“We searched for a number of days and the coastguard gave great assistance. My working hypothesis was that he had been swept out to sea. I am surprised that he was found. It seems like a tragic accident.”

The court heard how the crew of the French trawler Sancta Maria found the bones while hauling in their nets on September 10, 2010. They were taken to the Boulogne morgue and examined.

On September 16, French police emailed Kent Police’s European Liaison Unit asking for any details of missing persons.

On September 22 DNA analysis was carried out. No matches were found in France.

On January 14 2011 an email was sent to Hampshire Police to see if they wished to consider the case.

On April 26, 2011 a DNA profile was sent via Interpol to the British authorities.

On June 20, 2011 Interpol told the French police that a potential match had been found.

On June 25, Sussex Police matched the DNA with that of Piers to make a postive identification.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.