A TAXI driver was found dead in the River Weaver near Barons Quay - hours after 'singing and dancing' with family and friends to celebrate his birthday.

The body of Stuart Worrall, 56, was discovered lying face down in the water at around 11am on Sunday, November 18, last year, by Andrew Neild, who was staying on a house boat and out walking his dog with his wife.

Hours earlier, Mr Worrall, of Royle Street, Northwich, was enjoying a party he had organised at The Green Dragon on Witton Street, an inquest in Crewe heard yesterday.

His friend Lauren Slater, who works at the pub, said: "He was smiling and happy all night, singing and dancing and really enjoying the night he'd organised."

She said Mr Worrall, a member of the pub's pool and darts teams, was drinking his favourite drink, malibu and milk and a 'green monster' cocktail of Creme de Menthe, vodka and lemonade.

"We were all drinking," she said. "He seemed his happy self."

She left the pub with Mr Worrall and a group of around 10 friends at 12.30pm and they walked to Retro's Music Bar on High Street.

"He was happy, bubbly and perfectly fine," she added.

Mr Worrall's daughter, Amy Evans told the inquest she and her partner shared a meal with her dad in Wetherspoons earlier in the evening.

"He was always happy to be with me," said Amy, who went to his party in the pub and then joined him later at Retro's. "He was enjoying being with his family and friends. He always works seven days a week and never gets time off. The last time I saw him he was dancing on the floor."

But mystery surrounds how he came to be in the river.

The police carried out an extensive check of CCTV footage throughout the town centre to see if they could find any sign of Mr Worrall.

Detective Constable Sophie Bailey, who investigated the death as part of the CID team, said: "We were trying to get a picture of his movements."

Mr Worrall was last seen on camera at around 2am outside Retro's as he walked off towards Market Street. Earlier he had been seen to stumble.

After interviewing his friends, DC Bailey added: "Everyone we spoke to said he appeared to be having an amazing time. He was an extremely popular and well-liked person."

In a written statement, Detective Inspector Clare Coleman ruled out any criminal activity, stating: "There was no indication of foul play or any kind of altercation."

She said the fly on Mr Worrall's trousers had been undone when he was found so he may have been going to the toilet before he died.

Forensic toxicologist Dawn Reid examined his blood and urine and found that he was more than twice over the legal limit of alcohol to drive.

Pathologist Dr Sally Hales, who carried out a post mortem investigation, said that the cause of Mr Worrall's death was drowning caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Cheshire area coroner Claire Welch said: "This man was out having a good time celebrating his birthday, happy not to have to work that night and to be with his friends and family.

"How he actually came to be in the water will always be unknown because it wasn't witnessed by anyone.

"Despite an extensive investigation of CCTV footage, the police were unable to confirm how, when or where Mr Worrall entered the water.

"I'm entirely certain he didn't intend to end his life. I note the reference that his flies were open and suggest it was likely he was going to the toilet and fell into the water. This could be a potential explanation.

"The extreme amount of alcohol he'd been drinking played a part in Mr Worrall's death, reducing his co-ordination and steadiness on his feet."

The coroner concluded that Mr Worrall died from an accidental death.