A TEENAGER was found hanged in the woods after leaving a traveller site.

Jean-Luc Higgins, known as Lukey, was just a month short of his 18th birthday when a jogger discovered him on the Downs north of Patcham in Brighton.

He had been staying at the nearby council-run Horsdean traveller site and CCTV there showed him leaving the area alone at around 4pm on the day.

Just over an hour later he was found dead, and at his inquest coroner’s officer Tony Beldam said there was nothing at the scene which suggested foul play or that anyone else had interfered with his body before he died.

Mr Beldam said the area was cold, muddy and foggy on the day and said: “It was quite a lonely place, I would say.”

Mr Higgins was found wearing a rosary necklace.

There was no identification in his wallet, only a card from an undertaker that had organised his father’s funeral in 2016.

On it was written: “Although it feels like a rollercoaster now, life will calm down.”

Elizabeth Evans, a friend of Mr Higgins’s family, told the inquest that the last time she had seen him was in late January or early February when he had been left stranded without money in London.

But Mr Higgins, a self-employed builder, had previously lived with his mother in Richmond before leaving for Kent with travellers and then on to Brighton.

It is not known for how long exactly he had been at the traveller site north of Brighton, but it is understood that he was friends with a man called Owen Morn for three years.

Detective Sergeant Mike Butler from the safeguarding investigation unit was called to give evidence at the inquest.

He said there was some delay in identifying the youngster, who paramedics originally believed was a young man in his early 20s when his body was found on Sunday, March 4.

One possible reason why Mr Higgins did not carry identification was because he had a police record and was meant to be in contact with the Youth Justice Service.

Det Sgt Butler said CCTV footage from the traveller site revealed an incident in the moments before he died.

Men at the camp appeared to be joking with him, though one man had a broom and Mr Higgins was seen retreating ten paces away.

Det Sgt Butler said: “We see a smile on his face, but it might have been a catalyst for how Mr Higgins was feeling, a catalyst to make him walk off on his own.”

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said detectives and other agencies would need to try to speak with some of Mr Higgins’s friends at the site to learn more about his state of mind before his death.

She said: “In this case I am particularly anxious, I’m worried about this 17-year-old. I know he is behaving like a man in his mid 20s. He had a volatile life and rattled around a lot in the past few years.

“It seems to me that something must have happened to him for so many changes to have occurred. If he was my 17-year-old son I would be worried about him. I want to pull out all the stops for him.”

The inquest at Brighton coroner’s court was adjourned until September 3.