THE body of a man who had been missing from a Chester hospital for 24 days has been found.
Brian Parsons, 54, was discovered in the Manchester Ship Canal in Ellesmere Port on Wednesday last week.
His disappearance had sparked a large-scale police hunt in Chester and Ellesmere Port over the past month.
Underwater search teams spent days looking in both the Manchester Ship and Shropshire Union canals.
Police had also searched land around the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum and distributed leaflets to shops in the town centre and on Cheshire Oaks.
A Cheshire police spokesman said: 'Sadly, the body of a man found in the canal on April 7 has now been identified as that of Mr Parsons.
'A post-mortem examination has taken place and the cause of death has been given as drowning.
'We have prepared a file for Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg, who has opened and adjourned an inquest.'
Mr Parsons, 54, a voluntary patient at the West Cheshire Hospital in Chester, was last seen leaving his ward to buy a newspaper at 10.30am on Monday, March 15. When he failed to return as normal, police were informed.
A short time later Mr Parsons' jacket and glasses were found at the anchor monument at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, where the search was initially concentrated.
The Cheshire & Wirral NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has been supporting Mr Parsons' family and also working closely with the police.
Mr Parsons had been an informal patient at the hospital, meaning he could leave at certain times, but had to consult with staff first.
Avril Haydock, director of nursing, therapies and patient partnership at the trust, said: 'We are all sorry to hear the tragic news about Brian Parsons.
'We have been in close contact with his family through this very difficult time and are continuing to support them.'
Mr Parson's wife Margaret, of Great Sutton, had previously said of her husband: 'Brian is not only my husband but my best and eldest friend.
'I cannot put into words how much I miss him and love him.'