MYSTERY surrounds the death of a wellknown Hampshire shopkeeper found at his home.
A post-mortem examination carried out on the body of trader David Stearn proved inconclusive.
Further tests have been ordered in a bid to establish the cause of his death.
Mr Stearn was found dead in his New Forest flat by his partner, Jeremy Van Der Camp.
The 36-year-old had lived in Brockenhurst for four years, where, with the help of his parents, he opened the Bubble cosmetic shop in the village’s Brookley Road.
Mr Van Der Camp said his partner suffered from epilepsy as well as bipolar disorder and was thought to have had a fatal fit.
He added: “David was a character who was always smiling.
He would do anything for anyone.”
An inquest was opened at Southampton Coroner’s Court, which heard that a postmortem examination had failed to establish the cause of death. The hearing was adjourned pending the outcome of further tests.
Mr Stearn, of East Bank Road, moved to the village to make a fresh start in his life.
In 2002 he was taken on as a learning support assistant at a Leicester school for children with special educational needs.
Two years later he was attacked by a 15-stone pupil who was grazed in the ensuing struggle. Mr Stearn was suspended and charged with assault. Although he was later cleared, his family say he never fully recovered from his ordeal.
A former cross-country rider and showjumper, Mr Stearn was renowned for his ability to bounce back from injury.
On one occasion he broke both wrists in a riding accident but was back in the saddle before doctors had removed his casts.
Older brother Darryl said that Mr Stearn would be remembered for his cheeky smile and his love of animals.
He added: “Every morning David could be seen walking through the village with his two dogs to open the small shop he so loved.
“He welcomed all and would always be willing to help anyone, as the letters from numerous charities testify.”
Denise Chapman, who runs a pet shop in the village, said: “David was a very bubbly person with a wonderful love of horses.”