TWO men found dead in Purton were friends who had been drinking heavily the night before they walked along Gloucester Sharpness Canal back to their narrowboats with their three dogs, a coroner heard today.

Nicholas Cyril Barry, 53, of Cynghordy, Llandovery in South Wales, and Terence Humphreys, 69, of Pleasant Valley, Narbeth in Haverfordwest had spent the afternoon and evening of Saturday, Jan 11 drinking up to nine pints of beer each at the Tudor Arms in Slimbridge.

They then set off in the dark to walk along the canal to get to their separate boats moored nearby.

Gloucestershire Coroner's officer Terry Onions said at 9.40am next morning, Jan 12, Mr Barry's body was found soaking wet on the canal bank at Purton with the dogs sitting nearby.

The body of Mr Humphreys was found 45 minutes later floating in the canal, he said.

"There are no suspicious circumstances but at this stage it is unknown exactly what happened," Mr Onions said at an opening of inquests into the two deaths.

He said post-mortem examinations had found both died from drowning although blood specimens have been sent for scientific analysis.

Mr Barry's body was formally identified by his brother Jonathan and Mr Humphreys by his son Lee Humphreys.

"Mr Barry was staying in his narrowboat on the canal. Mr Humphreys was also staying nearby on his own boat," Mr Onions said.

"The two met up at the Tudor Arms in Slimbridge and spent the afternoon and evening there drinking. They were accompanied by three dogs.

"Staff estimate they consumed up to nine pints of beer. They left the pub at closing time to walk along the unlit towpath with the dogs to their boats."

Assistant Gloucestershire Coroner Katy Skerrett took evidence of identification and adjourned the inquest until July.