THE family of a man found dead in a smallholding near Leominster initially thought the relative had been murdered, an inquest heard this week.

David Gunn, 65, of Brierley, was found in a sheep pen on his land, holding a Stanley knife in one hand and a cork – used to protect the knife – in the other.

The Hereford hearing was told he had been cutting bubble wrap to insulate the pen when he tragically died.

The accident happened on March 7 when Mr Gunn was at home alone while his wife and son went shopping.

Mark Hayes, a pathologist at Hereford County Hospital, said the injuries – two diagonal lesions – were to the left side of Mr Gunn's neck.

In written evidence, DS Andrew Duckworth said the family initially believed Mr Gunn had been murdered.

However, on examining Mr Gunn, police found that when the Stanley knife was removed from his hand the skin underneath was completely clean.

“This could only mean that at the time he sustained the injury he was holding the knife and cork in each hand and at no point let go of these,” said DS Duckworth.

He said there was minimal disturbance at the scene and if there was any type of struggle he would have expected the natural reaction to be to drop the knife and cork.

DS Duckworth said he believed Mr Gunn’s death was also unlikely to have been an accident and said he would have expected him to drop one or both of the items and put his hands towards his neck and the injury.

However, Mr Gunn's son, Alaister, said the family believed that he did not intend to take his own life.

He was in the middle of doing a job, he said, and was a firm believer in using the right tool for the job which would have been different if he had intended to take his life.

“As I started re-enacting what he was doing I realised it was very dangerous,” said Mr Gunn. “I was having to get to a low level on to my forearms with a stanley knife. The first time I did it I almost cut myself on my neck trying to do the same thing.”

He added that his father was starting to show signs of age.

“I can very easily see how he could have dropped his weight on to the knife into his neck and not had the ability to get up and go for help,” he said.

"It makes utterly no sense to me the possibility that he has done this himself."

Mr Gunn, a retired paint chemist, had no financial worries and held a part-time job at Morrisons in Leominster.

Mark Bricknell, the coroner for Herefordshire, said he agreed with Mr Gunn’s family.

He said: "If I was to find a conclusion of suicide I would need to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt and I am nowhere near that level in my consideration of the facts.

"Indeed although this is not meant as any disrespect to police who I hold in very high regard I am satisfied he did not intend to take his own life."

He recorded that Mr Gunn died from exsanguination from a stab wound to the neck and that the death was an accident.