A homeless man may have died after falling over when trying to relieve himself near an industrial estate, an inquest heard.

After a bitterly cold December night, former heavy goods vehicle driver David Hughes was found dead and covered in blood in Jubillee Way, south Wimbledon, on the morning of December 4, 2012.

Two scrap metal dealers, John Gagliardi and Darren Leach, discovered the 65-year-old with a cut to his head and lying in a pool of blood, prompting police to investigate whether he had been murdered.

But Detective Grahame Horwood, from Merton police, told Westminster Coroner’s Court on February 14 that foul play was quickly ruled out.

He said: “Obviously when we arrived we looked for various signs. To the right of Mr Hughes’ head there was some mud and footprints.

“This indicated Mr Hughes had received these injuries and was walking around with the blood in the mud. There were tissues which indictated he was trying to clean up the blood.

“He may have tried to go to the toilet and slipped. There is a flood bank there and it was very very slippery.”

But a post-mortem examination, carried out by pathologist Dr Michael Heath, would reveal Mr Hughes’ head wound was only minor and that he had actually died from hypothermia.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, the coroner, Dr William Dolman, said: “Hypothermia can occasionally be a natural cause of death but this was a consequence of him sleeping rough.

“When he settled down that night he would never have thought that would be his last night.”