A gardener was found drowned in a millionaire's swimming pool after his wife accidentally "pocket-dialled" his mobile phone and he heard her chatting and flirting with another man, an inquest has heard.
Gareth Rees, 49, had been house-sitting for a wealthy friend when he overheard the devastating four-minute call and was found by wife Claire after she realised her blunder and dashed to the luxury house in Surrey.
The wife told the coroner that what Gareth heard "would not have been nice" as she flirted with new boyfriend Glen Ryan saying sexually-suggestive things during a lunch-date.
The coroner recorded an open verdict on the drowning after saying she could not be sure the gardener had intended to drown himself in the outdoor pool although she acknowledged he could not swim and had a life-long phobia of water.
The inquest was told that Claire Rees rushed to the £1.3 million home in upmarket Churt, Surrey, where her estranged husband Gareth was house-sitting for friends who were on holiday in France, after discovering he had overheard a four minute "sexually suggestive" conversation with her new flame, Glen.
She said: "It would not have been nice to hear. I declared that he hit me on more than one occasion, that I work a 70-hour week and was exhausted while Gareth was finishing work at 2.30pm – and I was flirting.
"Glen had been in a tempestuous relationship with his ex-partner and we were agreeing that you cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.
"I am not a technology person but I think instead of pressing the send button while texting Gareth I accidentally pressed the dial button, I do not know exactly what he was able to hear," blonde-haired Claire told the inquest in Surrey.
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After realising the blunder, panicked Claire left her Wetherspoons lunch-date and raced to the £1.3m home where she made the grim discovery outside in the swimming pool.
"I feel really bad about it now but my friends and I had joked earlier because Gareth had texted me to say he was going for a dip in the pool. He cannot swim, he hated water, he had a phobia – we thought he was joking.
"If the pocket dial had anything to do with his death, that is something I have to live with. I have had to make my peace with it," Claire added.
After 11 years of turbulent marriage, the wife ended the relationship with gardener Gareth and he confided to family that it was as if "a weight had been lifted off his shoulders."
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But, just a few weeks after the separation, Gareth suspected his wife was romantically involved with somebody else which left him "angry and upset."
In the early hours of the morning of his death, he had Googled the name "Glen Ryan" searching for the new lover on Facebook, Detective Inspector Jo Smith confirmed to the assistant Surrey coroner.
The inquest heard how Gareth Rees had been staying in his marital home in Alma Lane, Farnham, Surrey, the week before his death but was house-sitting a luxurious home for friends in Churt on August 3, while the owners holidayed in France when he received the pocket call.
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Pathologist Dr Robert Chapman confirmed that Gareth had died from drowning and had drunk over the drink drive limit of alcohol at the time of his death.
Assistant coroner Dr Karen Henderson said: "It was clear Gareth was upset that she was moving on, he had overheard remarks about him that were not complimentary and had the realisation that his marriage was not going to be recoverable.
"However, I have no evidence that there was an intention to end his life, he had no known history of mental health problems and no note was left."
The assistant coroner ended the inquest with an open conclusion noting the "exact circumstances of his death remain unknown and are speculative."
Paying tribute, Mrs Rees told the hearing, in Woking, Surrey: "Gareth was a lovely person, he was the best step-father to my son.
"We had both drifted and it was my son that said he could not cope with the arguing. That was the nail in the coffin."
Brother Tom Rees added: "The best way to describe Gareth was when I asked him if he wanted to buy a lottery ticket for the £55 million rollover, he said he did not need it, he had his gardening and his dogs, he was very happy."
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