A Staffordshire man drowned after jumping into a city centre docks following a drunken night out, an inquest heard yesterday.

Benjamin Burgin, aged 23, was three times the legal drink-drive limit when he jumped into Liverpool's Albert Dock in the early hours of Sunday January 30.

The former gardener had spent the day drinking with friends in Liverpool city centre and was returning to a hotel with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Antonia Birch.

Miss Birch told Liverpool Coroner's Court that she and Mr Burgin, of Newcastleunder-Lyme, had had a disagreement earlier that evening but insisted they were not arguing as they walked home.

She said: "He said he didn't think anyone would care, and then something else but I didn't hear what.

"I said 'You are being stupid - let's go back to the hotel' and he walked for a bit but then he went back through the railings and stood on the edge.

"He was on the edge one minute and then, not.

"I didn't see him jump. He just went into the water."

Miss Birch, of Manchester, wept as she told the court how Mr Burgin appeared to try to swim towards a ladder but was unable.

She tried to grab a life ring to throw to him but saw him submerge.

His body was later retrieved by the fire service and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post-mortem revealed he died from drowning, and had 239mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system.

Coroner Andre Rebello returned an open verdict as he could not be sure whether the death was deliberate or a prank.

He said: "Benjamin was heavily drunk. He may have been messing around, he may have thought that it was easy to swim in the water.

"It may have been that he was just trying to play a prank on his girlfriend whereby he says something and it appears dramatic, jumps into the water and intends to swim to the side, but given the level of intoxication, he didn't make it.

"I don't know what was in his mind and can't say whether this was an accident.

"I'm certainly satisfied that it can't be said he killed himself."

Mr Burgin's relatives declined to comment.