A pensioner who sparked a significant search operation when he went missing from his flat died of hypothermia, an inquest into his death has heard.

Joseph Rice, aged 78, was reported missing on Friday January 20 this year and wasn’t found until Sunday January 22.

He was found lying behind a wall, underneath a thick hedge in the garden of 67 Ballanard Road, Douglas in his pyjamas.

His cause of death was given as hypothermia.

Temperatures were reported to be around one degree celsius around the time Mr Rice went missing.

Born November 12, 1944, in Liverpool Joseph was a retired bricklayer.

He was living In Ballanard Court, a block of sheltered accommodation in Douglas run by Douglas Borough Council, which provides independent flats.

After his health deteriorated during the latter half of 2022, his family had conversations with a social worker regarding whether he should be moved into residential care.

However, Mr Rice said that he wanted to stay in independent accommodation.

The inquest heard that Mr Rice had been struggling to sleep and had been prescribed sedatives.

However, these led to Mr Rice experiencing side effects, namely dizziness and drowsiness.

Mr Rice was due to attend a medical appointment regarding problems with his memory on Friday, January 20.

A post-mortem examination on Mr Rice found that there was evidence of early signs of cognitive decline, the inquest heard.

On the morning of January 19, a worker at Ballanard Court undertook her normal morning welfare call and found that Mr Rice did not answer.

Later that morning, she and a colleague visited Mr Rice’s flat.

They found the property was unlocked and entered the flat but he was not there.

Thinking that he was out, they returned later that morning.

His phone, keys and hearing aid were all left in the flat.

A number of individuals who visited the flat that morning noted that the TV looked as if it had been placed on the floor.

It was when Mr Rice did not pick up the phone the following day, on Friday, 20 January, that a worker at Ballanard Court contacted Joseph’s son Nicholas Rice who reported him missing.

Nicholas last had contact with his father on the morning of Thursday, January 19, at 1am, when Joseph had asked whether he was ‘knocking on his apartment door’.

Nicholas was ‘not too concerned’ as he and other family members had previously received similar calls from Joseph.

A worker at Ballanard Court had said that Joseph had mentioned the apparent knocking sounds to her.

She said that an ongoing issue with the heating system created a ‘whooshing’ sound at the flats during the night, but that Mr Rice had reported hearing knocking as well.

It was noted during the hearing that Joseph had not been in his flat for 33 hours by the time he was reported missing.

On Friday morning, January 20, searches were launched to try and locate Mr Rice.

Tragically, his body was discovered in the corner of a thick hedge of a neighbouring property on the morning of Sunday January 22 by Jim McGregor of the Search and Rescue Dog Association, and his dog Ruby.

Recording his verdict, Coroner of Inquests, James Brooks, said that Joseph had been in a disturbed mental state when he left his home but exactly what happened between Mr Rice leaving his apartment and him being found dead will never be known.

He said that given that there were no sightings of Mr Rice between the point when he left his home and the day he was found, particularly considering that Mr Rice was wearing pyjamas and was barefoot at the time of his disappearance, he was satisfied that Mr Rice had died on the night of January 19.

Given the trail picked-up by search and rescue dog during the operation to find him, Mr Brooks said that Mr Rice had likely walked to the end of the road before turning back and trying to head home.

Mr Brooks found that it was likely that Joseph, in a state of confusion, got lost and given the location of the property in which he was found, which was opposite Ballanard Court, he entered the garden from the drive.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Brooks said that Mr Rice’s ‘entirely unintentional’ death had been as a result of hypothermia,likely falling into a thick hedge.

Concluding the inquest, Mr Brooks told Mr Rice’s family: ‘You have my condolences on a very shocking death.’