A FATHER drowned as he tried to rescue his dog in a "heroic act", a coroner has said.

Gareth Jones was reported missing on Saturday, January 16, after he did not return from walking his family's dog Connie in the Hove Lagoon area.

A huge search was launched for the father-of three from Wilbury Gardens, Hove, with hundreds of volunteers supporting emergency teams as they scoured the shoreline across Brighton and Hove.

Connie, the family's brown cockapoo, was found dead on the beach in Brighton two days later on January 18. The following morning, the 69-year-old's body was found at Tide Mills, near Newhaven.

At the inquest into his death today at Brighton Coroner's Court, DC Tessa Lovell at Sussex Police said the force received CCTV footage which showed Gareth going into the sea after Connie, and described the "colossal waves" coming in.

The Argus: A huge search operation was launched to find Gareth after he was reported missingA huge search operation was launched to find Gareth after he was reported missing

Senior coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said high tide was 6.2 metres.

She said: "That's a huge volume of water and almost exactly the time Gareth went in to rescue Connie.

"In its own way it was a heroic act.

"People say not to go into the water after your dog, but who wouldn't? If you love your dog as part of your family, of course you would.

"All along the coast from the Peace Statue right up to Hove Lagoon, there is also this huge shelf which does catch people out. You can walk into the water at low tide and all of a sudden you are six feet further down.

"But even without this drop I think the state of the water that day would have made it hard to survive.

"He would have been overwhelmed immediately."

The coroner concluded Gareth's death was an accident and gave his cause of death as drowning in sea water.

The court heard that earlier that day, Gareth had bought some fish to cook and was looking forward to an evening in front of the fire with his family watching the football.

Addressing his partner Shirley, Ms Hamilton-Deeley said: "There are not many blessings but everything he did in those last few hours was done with love - for you and for Connie.

"He was obviously an amazing chap, and completely irreplaceable."

The Argus: Gareth Jones was described as 'remarkable' by his son RobbieGareth Jones was described as 'remarkable' by his son Robbie

Gareth was born in Cardiff and was a self-employed management consultant who had previously worked as a lecturer at universities in several countries, as well as head of HR at the BBC.

Following his death, tributes flooded in for Gareth, who was described as a "strong and sociable" character by his family.  

His son Robbie, 24, said that Gareth's local pub, the Watchmaker's Arms in Hove, will have a new beer on tap in his father's honour when it reopens next month.

He said: "We are glad the inquest is over, as that's another major milestone done.

"We just want to say what a remarkable man our dad was and we are so thankful for all the tributes that have come in.

"There has been stories from all sorts of people, whether it be from his business friends or academic ones, about all the advice he offered people over the years.

"These are the kind of stories we are hanging on to.

"My sisters Rhian and Gemma both say we are all going to be more like Gareth - which means taking opportunities, drinking lots of beer and just being kind to one another, and to always back the underdog."