A CORONER has recorded an open verdict at the inquest into the death of a 31-year-old Barry dad, who was found dead in October.

Cardiff & Vale coroner Mary Hassell said she was unable to determine exactly how father-of-three Ben Bridges died, and said it was possible that Mr Bridges, whose family has a history of heart-related ailments, could have suffered a fatal arrhythmia.

Medical evidence stated that although he had drunk alcohol and there were prescription drugs in his system, the levels of both were insufficient to kill him.

Ms Hassell said it was impossible to confirm the definite cause of death of the scaffolding labourer, who died at a friend's flat on October 2.

Following the inquest, Ben's family paid tribute to a ‘popular and much-loved’ son, partner, dad and friend whose death, they said, had left a huge gap in their lives.

Youngest son Charlie Bridges, just eight years old, said: "He was the best in the house and he was my favourite."

His long-term partner Nadia Downes said Ben, a passionate Arsenal fan and a ‘party animal’, was happy and always friendly towards others, although he had suffered from depression - for which he had sought and had treatment - usually when he was unable to work, as he loved his job and always ‘wanted to do things’.

Nadia, 35, said: "He was a devoted dad and Charlie was a devoted son. He idolised his daddy."

More than 300 people attended the funeral of the former Barry Island Primary and Barry Comprehensive pupil, which took place in St John's church, Barry Island, on October 17.

His death came only two years after that of his older brother Leon, who took his own life, aged 33, in 2009.

Their mum Karen Butlin said Ben would also be deeply missed by his brother Danny and cousins Katie and Nikki.

"Ben used to like to please people," she said.

"He would never show anyone any malice and he was always polite.

"He had a tendency to play tricks on you - he would really wind you up. "We will really miss him - he was the life and soul of the party."

Karen added that she wanted to thank Ben's life-long friend Russell Pearce, who organised a recent benefit event in his memory.

"After Ben died Russell did everything possible and we want to thank him," she said.

"We are sure that Ben, like us, would be smiling at the news that his true friend has got engaged."