A HEAD gardener who sparked a four day search of the Moors after leaving his home drowned in a river, an inquest heard.

The hearing heard Stephen Mead, 53, of Arden Hall, Hawnby, near Helmsley, where he worked for Lord and Lady Mexborough, had been distraught and agitated before his disappearance.

He was worried financial details on his laptop had been compromised and was concerned for the safety of his employer’s family.

Mr Mead’s father, Harry Mead, from Great Broughton, said his son feared there were assassins and that his computer had been infiltrated, but such fears proved groundless.

“He had never threatened to take his life. He had bought a week’s groceries, renewed his National Trust membership and booked a holiday.”

His partner Anne Chisholm, said he was concerned about his pension and had started investing in the stockmarket. Mr Mead was found in the River Rye at the foot of a steep bank. North Yorkshire East Coroner, Michael Oakley told the Scarborough inquest there was no evidence Mr Mead killed himself and recorded an open verdict.