A MOBILE fishmonger suffoc-ated when his van ran over him after he failed to fully apply the handbrake, a coroner was told.

Peter Carson, 41, was delivering fish in St Mary's Close, Shincliffe Village, near Durham City, when his Mercedes Vito rolled over him while he was standing behind it.

North Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle ruled the cause of death to be accidental after he heard that Mr Carson had pulled up the handbrake by two notches, instead of at least the five needed to keep the van from moving on the hill.

Pathologist Dr Babette Disep said a post-mortem examination showed that Mr Carson had suffered no serious injuries, but had asphyxiated because he was unable to breathe when compressed by the weight of the van.

Irene Jones, of Shincliffe Village, told the hearing in Chester-le-Street that she was leaving her home when she saw the van and was aware of someone under it.

She said: "It looked as though there was someone working on it.

"I hesitated and looked again and saw there was no movement. I thought I should go and see if everything was alright. Unfortunately it wasn't.

PC Ian Haigh said he found the driver's door open and Mr Carson trapped under the spare wheel at the back with his arms positioned as though he was pushing up.

PC Haigh said the handbrake could be set up to six notches.

He observed that five notches would have been capable of holding the vehicle in that position without moving.

However, it was on only two notches, which was not capable of holding the vehicle.

He said that there were no witnesses to what had happened but it was entirely plausible that Mr Carson had got to the rear of the vehicle without having had time to open the hatch, when the vehicle rolled backwards.

Mr Carson, of Westward Ho! Grimsby, South Humberside, was a regular visitor to the Shincliffe area and made fish deliveries on a weekly basis to customers in St Mary's Close.