THE body of a missing pensioner lay undiscovered in a field for three months after he wandered away from home.

An inquest was told yesterday that the remains of George Harding, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, were found just a mile from his home by a man walking his dog, last November.

The retired United Reformed Church minister had been reported missing by his wife, Jean, on August 12. She last saw him in the rear garden at their home, in Geoffrey Avenue, Nevilles Cross, Durham.

Despite a widespread police search, it was not until November 19 that a passer-by came across Mr Harding's body beside a hedge in a field at Farewell Hall Farm, near the Cock o' the North roundabout, on the A167 in Durham.

Coroner's officer PC Keith Robinson told the hearing, in Durham, that the body was in an extensive state of decay. Identification was only confirmed through DNA testing, while forensic tests revealed nothing untoward.

PC Robinson said police concluded there appeared to be nothing suspicious about the death of 83-year-old Mr Harding.

Mrs Harding sai: "Like many people with Alzheimer's he wanted to wander all the time. I was usually with him, and on the few occasions he eluded me he was found quite quickly."

North Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle, recorded a verdict of death through natural causes.