MYSTERY surrounds the death of a sex offender who had been transferred from Winchester Prison to a mental health hospital run by Southern Health.

John Eayrs, the sole occupant of a bedroom at Ravenswood House, near Fareham, was found with a paper bag over his head and a ligature around his neck.

But a post-mortem examination carried out by Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue proved inconclusive, a pre-inquest review hearing was told.

Area coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp also heard evidence that Mr Eayrs was not checked as often as he should have been.

An agency worker employed by NHS Professionals should have been observing him at regular intervals was "sidetracked" by the need to serve meals, the hearing was told.

Ravenswood House is a secure unit for adults suffering from mental illness.

Mr Eayrs was admitted on May 13 and a risk assessment was carried out the following day. He was found dead on his bed on May 23.

Following the post-mortem the cause of his death was deemed to be "undetermined".

Quoting remarks made by Dr Purdue Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said: "There was not the slightest trace of a ligature mark on his neck."

She added: "Everyone was assuming the post-mortem report would say death was caused by the paper bag and the ligature, but there was no physical evidence you would normally find in these circumstances.

"We are in a slightly odd position."

Turning to the issue of who should give evidence at the inquest she said: "It's important we have everyone who can help us in terms of what they found at the scene."

Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said Mr Eayrs was deemed to be at risk and should have been observed every 15 minutes.

But she added: "An agency employee who should have kept observation was sidetracked into giving out lunch and because of that she was unable to do the observations. She assumed someone else would do it because she was giving out lunches.

"He wasn't observed, as he should have been, every 15 minutes."

Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said the inquest was expected to take five or six days and was unlikely to be held until this time next year.

The inquest was opened at Winchester Coroner's Court earlier this year.

The hearing was told he had been serving a sentence at Winchester Prison for breaching a sexual harm prevention order.