An ambulance service technician said a car wash worker's teeth appeared to be dissolving as he writhed around in agony after drinking hydrochloric acid, an inquest has heard.

Graham Silander described the inside of Zorancho Dimov's mouth as "horrific" after he was called to a BP garage which the 47-year-old had staggered into shouting for help, Brighton Coroner's Court was told.

Mr Dimov is believed to have drunk the undiluted acid at the Lewes Road car wash in Brighton, where he was living and working, after becoming depressed about debt and losing his family home in Macedonia, the inquest heard.

He was rushed to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, sedated and taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) but his injuries were so severe that he died six days later.

BP store manager Jonathan Kendall told Brighton and Hove Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley that he believed Mr Dimov was drunk when he entered the shop at 7am on May 3.

He said he realised quickly that something was wrong as Mr Dimov began groaning, was on all fours and seemed to be in quite a lot of pain.

Mr Kendall said Mr Dimov was shouting in broken English but that he heard him say "heart attack" although he told the court it did not look like he was having one.

He also shouted "acid", "wheel wash" and "car wash", Mr Kendall said.

Mr Silander, from the South East Coast Ambulance Service, arrived at the garage five minutes after Mr Kendall made a 999 call, the court was told.

He too believed Mr Dimov may have been under the influence of alcohol, or that he had taken the mind-altering drug LSD as he heard him say acid, he told the hearing.

The technician said Mr Dimov was lying on his side, clutching his stomach, spitting and shouting in a language he did not understand, although he did hear him say help.

Mr Silander realised Mr Dimov had drunk a harmful substance after seeing froth around his mouth, the court heard.

He took him outside and asked him: "Why have you drunk acid? Have you tried to kill yourself?"

To which Mr Dimov replied: "I think so."

Mr Silander said: "He was continuing to spit. I looked in his mouth and it was horrific.

"I do not know if he had bad teeth to begin with but they seemed to be dissolving."

Car wash owner Ismail Andosa told the court that Mr Dimov and his son Dean Dimov had begun working for him in February or March this year.

He said Mr Dimov senior was a very quiet man but would often say that he wanted his family to be together.

Mr Andosa said Mr Dimov had not given him the impression he was depressed or suicidal, and that when he had seen him the evening before his death he had been laughing and joking with one of his colleagues.

He also described how chemicals used in car washing were kept outside at the back of the premises and that the containers of hydrochloric acid were diluted and put into spray bottles before being used to clean vehicles, the court heard.

He said Mr Dimov would have known which container contained diluted hydrochloric acid and which contained the undiluted chemical.

A police investigation found that Mr Dimov had been in the premises on his own at the time the fluid was ingested as his son was on holiday in Macedonia.

Detective Sergeant Simon Dunn, from Sussex Police, said Mr Dimov's estranged wife Anka was living and working in London but came to Brighton as soon as she heard of her husband's condition.

She initially told police that her husband had no history of suicide attempts and that he was not depressed but later admitted he had been in a depressed state due to a lack of money and his home being repossessed in Macedonia.

Dr Mark Taylor, who carried out the post-mortem examination on Mr Dimov's body said that the damage had been done as soon as he had drunk the acid and that the effects were irreversible.

He said: "The conditions of the stomach I encountered here were far worse than any I had seen in a hospital specimen jar, but that could be because he was kept alive in ICU for several days.

"The extent of his injuries were catastrophic. The whole tract had been corroded away by acid."

Mr Taylor told the court the cause of death was multi-organ failure and upper airway and upper gastro-intestinal damage caused by drinking hydrochloric acid.

Mrs Hamilton-Deeley recorded an open verdict and said that although she believed Mr Dimov had deliberately drunk the hydrochloric acid, she could not be sure that he had intended to take his own life.