A MAJOR missing person search ended when the body of a woman was found in a ditch — but mystery surrounds why she wandered off alone in the middle of the night.

An inquest into the death of Joyce Maryon heard on Wednesday that the 51-year-old inexplicably left her supported lodgings at Fellowship House in Ryde just before midnight on April 9 last year.

She was spotted leaving and an hour later the police were called by staff at the Salvation Army home, who were concerned for her welfare because her behaviour was so out of character.

Police launched a search operation and an appeal through the media, for the public to help look out for sightings of Miss Maryon.

Five days later a teenager found a rucksack containing Miss Maryon's belongings, including some ID.

When he searched her name online, to return the goods to her, he came across the missing person appeal and contacted the police.

Police found the body nearby, in shallow water at a remote patch of farmland in Havenstreet.

The inquest heard the terrain would have been almost impossible to navigate in the dark, and was so remote the police had to use a farm vehicle to access it.

Coroner Caroline Sumeray said: "This is a strange and baffling case. She appeared happy at Fellowship House and people were keeping an eye on her, but she was free to come and go as she pleased.

"For reasons unknown she left in the night. I do not think she intended to die. I think she became exhausted, hungry and cold, and died as a result of hypothermia."

The inquest heard Miss Maryon had a degree of underlying learning disabilities and had had an isolated childhood which impacted on her life.

She was described by one staff member at Fellowship House as "friendly, chatty, positive and intelligent."

The cause of death was hypothermia and the coroner concluded an open conclusion.

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