Publican took own life after cash disappeared

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A pub landlord who vanished after almost £30,000 was stolen from his customers’ Christmas fund told his partner to “be good, or I’ll come back and haunt you” the night he walked out on her and to his eventual death, an inquest has heard.

Malcolm Levesconte, landlord of the Royal Oak in Shrewton near Salisbury in Wiltshire, disappeared in mysterious circumstances after suspicion was pointed towards him when the thrift club cash went missing.

The 59-year-old was last seen on December 9 last year boarding a ferry for France after the theft. His body was found in the sea off Dover, Kent, on Christmas Eve.

His inquest in Salisbury yesterday heard how Mr Levesconte only disclosed the level of his debt in a series of notes discovered after his death was confirmed.

His partner, Janet Handsley, told police she had seen one note the night before he disappeared, but only read the top line because she found it upsetting. The content of the note was not disclosed yesterday, although the court heard it prompted Mr Levesconte’s upset partner to contact her son.

She told the court she did not discuss the note with Mr Levesconte the next day, the last time she saw him, when he said he was leaving to speak to somebody who could resolve a financial issue.

In a statement to police, she said: “About a month ago (before his disappearance) I noticed a change. He hadn’t been himself and couldn’t sleep properly.

“On December 8 I found a letter in an envelope with my name on it. It upset me greatly so I didn’t read any more. I didn’t discuss it with Malcolm. I last saw him at 5.30pm on December 9.

“He went out having said goodbye to me and that he loved me. He said: ‘You’ll have to be good or I will come back and haunt you’. At the time I didn’t think anything about it.”

Letters found after Mr Levesconte’s disappearance – in a bundle with his will – spoke about his debt to the thrift club and, according to coroner Dr Claire Balysz, “quite clearly expressing his intentions and the reason he chose to take the course of action”.

Wiltshire Police said they had been working on the theory that Mr Levesconte had been propping up his failing pub business with money from the fund.

Dr Balysz read evidence to the court stating how Mr Levesconte had few friends, worked every day in the pub and rarely had time off.

The court heard Mr Levesconte had booked a ferry ticket at about 5.30pm the day he was last seen alive.

Mr Levesconte then headed to Portsmouth and boarded a ferry. His body was found in the Channel two weeks later.

The coroner said Mr Levesconte had drowned and had taken his own life.