An ex-Army major was found dead at home after a night out at a reunion of his public school classmates, an inquest heard.

Nicholas Wilby, formerly of the Royal Lancers, had enjoyed a 'civilised night out' before being found on the floor by his wife the following morning.

The 49-year-old recruitment firm partner and father of three had drunk 'five or six' pints with pals from King's Bruton, the Somerset school he attended in the early 90s.

Salisbury Journal: Mrs Alison WilbyMrs Alison Wilby (Image: Solent)

His wife, Alison Wilby, heard him return to their home at around midnight but didn't see him until the following morning, when she discovered him lying on his back, dead, at the bottom of the stairs.

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At Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner's Court in Salisbury on Friday, November 3, area coroner Ian Singleton found the cause of death to be 'unascertained' and he delivered a narrative conclusion.

The inquest heard Mrs Wilby dropped her husband - who joined Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service as a firefighter in March 2020 - at the reunion at The Old Ale and Coffee House on March 24 this year.

She returned to their address in Wilton, where she went to bed at 10.30pm and didn't expect to see Mr Wilby until the morning, as he was due to sleep in their daughter's room, who was away skiing.

In a statement, she said she'd heard a noise at "about midnight" and "sensed Nick was home" so thought nothing of it.

However, at 6.30am, she woke up to "padding around" of the dog upstairs, which was unusual.

"As I came downstairs I noticed Nick's feet, believing he had fallen asleep," she said.

"From his complexion, I could tell he was dead."

The inquest heard Mr Wilby could 'handle his drink', as his time in the Army - in which he served from 1997 to 2006 - would often involve social drinking.

Friends who attended the reunion said he had drunk 'five or six pints' as well as a shot and that he had been 'beaming from ear-to-ear' to be back with 'old school chums'.

Blood tests showed he was over three times the drink-drive limit.

Mr Wilby's cause of death was originally recorded by a pathologist as 'acute alcohol toxicity' and a 'minor head injury'.

However, at his inquest, Mr Wilby's family said this was a 'baffling' conclusion for a man of his stature as he stood 6ft 3in tall and weighed 18st.

Mrs Wilby said she thought he was sober enough to be 'considerate' when arriving home and even remembered the jumper he had taken out with him.

Delivering a narrative conclusion, Mr Singleton said: "I do find that the evidence was somewhat difficult to follow. As regards to Nick - he was not the smallest of people.

"I have found cases before me where people of a lot less built have not been killed by alcohol of that level.

"As the pathologist agreed, the head injury was not that great and seems to have been caused by the fall.

"The reason he went to the floor? Who knows."

Recording an 'unascertained' cause of death, he added: "I find there was no cause of death that I find acceptable - we just don't know."

He offered his 'very sincere condolences' to the family for their loss.

Paying tribute after the inquest, friend and legal representative for the family Grant Davies - who also served alongside Mr Wilby - described him as an 'incredibly popular' figure.

In a tribute issued shortly after his death, Wilton Fire Station said: "We are heartbroken.

"Nick was big in both stature and character and has left a huge hole within our crew that can’t be replaced. We are grateful for all the memories we have with Nick and will hold them dear in our hearts forever.

"Our thoughts go out to Nick’s family and loved ones during this difficult time, and we offer our sincere condolences. Farewell Nick, you will be missed."