THE owner of the Molly’s Den emporia has died of a gunshot wound, an inquest heard.

John East-Rigby, 65, died on May 8 at his home at Mockbeggar near Ringwood on the edge of the New Forest.

Mr East-Rigby was identified by a police officer following a description of his clothing from his wife Cherry.

The hearing in Winchester was told that consultant pathologist Dr Sanjay Jogai had conducted a post mortem and said cause of death was traumatic brain injury and a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Central Hampshire senior coroner Grahame Short adjourned the hearing until September 26.

Mr East-Rigby described as a “serial entrepreneur” in his LinkedIn profile bought the Molly’s Den stores in 2017 and there are currently three: in Francis Avenue, Bournemouth; Easton Lane, Winnall, Winchester; and Bridge Street in Christchurch.

The stores are a base for traders selling a variety of things including retro furniture, vintage clothing, records, antiques, jewellery, gifts and collectables

Staff at the Winchester branch expressed their sadness at the news. Justin Fearn, general manager, told the Daily Echo: “It has come as a shock to us, very sad. The staff have been taken aback. He was a good boss who cared about this team. He was always there when you needed him.

“He saw him regularly. He had his vision and we could bounce ideas with him.”

Mr Fearn said it was business as usual at the Winchester branch. An announcement was due to be made to traders.

In 2017 Mr East-Rigby, who has named the new company MD Emporium Limited, told the Daily Echo: “We are delighted to have acquired the very popular Molly’s Den business protecting 30 full and part-time local jobs.”

Molly’s Den offers retailers the chance to rent units or display cabinets in order to sell a wide range of goods .

The first den opened in Bournemouth in 2012 and since then more than 500 traders have got involved. It claims to offer affordable rents alongside leisure offers such as cafes and a children’s play area.

The Winchester Molly’s Den reopened in spring 2018. Under previous ownership, it had been embroiled in a long planning battle with Winchester City Council over its use of another building in Winnall.