Tragic Arthur Sexton, 80, was found with his legs poking out of the four-foot-deep water container at his home in Fleet, near Holbeach in Lincolnshire.
Arthur’s wife Jessie told the Spalding Guardian that Arthur had brought her a cup of tea and then ventured out. She assumed he’d gone to visit the neighbours.
When Arthur failed to return two hours later on 11 March, Jessie went next door and raised the alarm.
Neighbour Ian Bond told an inquest: “My wife called the police and I took a torch to check the garden next door.
“Behind the shed I could see Arthur’s leg sticking out of the side of the water barrel. He was face down in it up to his waist.”
Ian said he tried to push the water butt over to get Arthur out but his feet caught in conifers. “I had to shake him out, he was in so tight. I knew he was dead so I put a coat over him in case his wife came out.”
Police found a pair of flimsy step-ladders that appeared to have collapsed near to the water butt.
PC Peter Avery of Holbeach Police said: “It seemed to me that the man had fallen from the ladder directly into the butt.”
Coroner’s officer David Lea added: “We tried to reconstruct the scene but couldn’t find a plausible way he had gone into the water butt.” Spalding Coroners’ Court recorded a verdict of accidental death.