THE death of a Tunbridge Wells man who was found on a railway line on his 50th birthday remains unexplained following an inquest.
It is suspected that Andrew Bell, 50, committed suicide after struggling to cope with his 91-year-old mother being admitted to a care home, but there was not enough evidence to confirm the theory.
Mr Bell, who lived with his mum Irene in William Street, was found by a train driver on a railway line underneath a road bridge close to Postern Lane, between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood, on September 29 – but it took almost a month to identify his body.
Giving evidence at the inquest in Tunbridge Wells, Detective Sergeant Lee Marshall from the British Transport Police said neighbours had not seen him since about September 24, and one had spoken to him about his mother being taken into a care home.
"He had expected her to come home," said Mr Marshall.
"And it's significant that it happened on his date of birth. It was consistent with a fall and being hit by a train.
"All the evidence leads me to conclude the death was an independent act to take his own life. He was a lonely individual."
Friends agreed he kept himself to himself but described him as an avid walker with a dry sense of humour.
Dave Wetton, chairman of Tonbridge and Malling Ramblers, said: "He walked with a number of groups and was always very chatty, came for a drink afterwards and was very fond of wildlife."
Fellow rambler Janis Lee said: "He was a nice, gentle man and he used to walk in the area where he died. He used to go out on his own for long walks, he loved the countryside."
The pair said Mr Bell particularly liked donkeys, so they were going to scatter his ashes at a donkey sanctuary in Devon.
Steve Collinson had been friends with Mr Bell since they were both 18 years old.
He said: "He was a fun person with a dry sense of humour. He was also very interested in nature and conservation. I got the impression he was concerned about his mum's condition but didn't really show it.
"We found we had mutual interests in 1970s progressive rock and also pubs and real ale which we pursued over the years.
"Whenever we met up there would always be a mandatory visit to an excellent country pub or two. When we were younger we had some holidays youth hostelling around the UK and on a few occasions celebrated the New Year together in Edinburgh.
"I was very shocked and saddened to hear the news of his tragic death and I will miss him, but I have many fond memories of our 30-plus years of friendship."
At the inquest on Wednesday, coroner Roger Hatch recorded an open verdict, saying: "There's no evidence to suggest why it was he was found on the railway line.
"How that came about we shall never know. I cannot be confident it was his decision to take his own life on the evidence given."