A dad whose body was discovered at a waste recycling centre was seen on CCTV to be "happy" and talking to "quite a few people" just a short time before he is believed to have climbed into a bin in Sunderland city centre after a night out, an inquest into his death has heard.
The body of Jay McLaren, 28, was found at a recycling plant in the Sedgeletch area of Houghton on Christmas Eve last year.
Popular Jay had been on a night out with team-mates from his Sunday League team two nights previously when he went missing.
His half brother Ken Morley contacted police when Jay had failed to get in contact with any of his friends or family following the evening’s drinking.
An inquest into his death at Sunderland Coroner’s Court heard that Jay had "no emotional or financial issues" in his life and there were no obvious reasons for him to go missing, although he had gone missing for short periods in the past.
Witnesses described him as being "quite drunk" after drinking for several hours, starting off at the King’s Arms, in Deptford, before he and the group he was with moved into Sunderland city centre.
Detective Sergeant Steve Robinson of Northumbria Police told the hearing that a trawl of CCTV footage carried out by officers showed Jay walking in the Park Lane area at around 4am in December 23.
At around 4.15am he walked up Vine Place in the direction of Green Terrace.
Footage showed him turning right into a lane behind the Bavaria bar, parallel to Vine Place.
"He goes into that rear lane and then does not emerge," said Det Sgt Robinson.
Speaking about the CCTV footage of Jay prior to his disappearance, DS Robinson added: "He talked to quite a few people.
"He seemed quite happy and certainly didn’t look to be in any form of disagreement with anybody."
HGV drivers Ryan George Medlock and Paul Jeffrey, working for Max Recycle, who were emptying bins in the rear lane behind Vine Place in the early hours of December 23, both said they saw nothing to suggest a person had climbed into one of the 1,100-litre size bins.
Mr Medlock, who no longer works for the firm, said: "If we heard something, we could press the stop button, but that day we didn’t hear a thing, like any other day."
The hearing continues.