A Co Derry man who was found dead on the shores of Lough Neagh in January 2008 was likely to have been drowned by others, an inquest has heard. 

The naked body of Michael Gerard Hampson, a 53-year-old father of six from Co Derry, was discovered on January 9, 2008, in an area close to Toomebridge in Co Antrim. 

His family had reported him missing six weeks earlier, while he was wanted for questioning in relation to an alleged kidnapping in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, at the time of his disappearance. 

An inquest into his death previously heard that some people had expressed concern about Hampson "talking" about the kidnapping. 

Coroner Joe McCrisken delivered his findings at the conclusion of the inquest at Omagh Courthouse on February 9, stating that he believed Hampson had died on November 30, 2007. 

"I am satisfied on balance that Mr. Hampson died as a result of drowning, probably on the Moyola River on November 30, 2007," McCrisken told the inquest. 

He ruled that Hampson was "placed or pushed into the water" and added that this was likely done while he was "heavily intoxicated". 

He said he found it "highly improbable that Gerard Hampson died by natural causes, suicide or accident".

McCrisken also ruled that it was "highly likely" that a third party removed Hampson's clothes to potentially remove forensic evidence.  

He additionally referenced evidence given to the inquest by Hampson's niece, who said he was "on edge" when she saw him in November 2007. 

"According to Mr. Hampson's niece, her uncle told her, 'there are boys after me and I don't know where to go'," McCrisken told the inquest. 

McCrisken added that forensics linked Hampson to the alleged kidnapping in Mullingar in 2007. 

Hampson, who served time in custody as a republican prisoner during the 1970s, was described as a bricklayer who had struggled with alcoholism and mental health difficulties. The inquest heard that he could have been described as a "vulnerable man". 

A 2016 report by then-Police Ombudsman Dr. Michael Maguire was highly critical of the police's handling of the Hampson case. 

Maguire said in the report that the police made little effort to find Hampson and failed to conduct basic witness and CCTV inquiries because officers believed he was "on the run and would turn up when it suited him". 

Eight PSNI officers were disciplined in relation to the case. 

Speaking on Wednesday, PSNI assistant chief constable Mark McEwan said the initial investigation "fell far below the standard that Mr. Hampson and his family deserved". 

"I again wish to put on record how sorry I am. We acknowledged and accepted that there were lessons to be learned from this case." 

Hampson's family welcomed the coroner's conclusion that he did not take his own life. 

"This brings us great relief," Hampson's family said in a statement. 

However, they added that some questions remain "unanswered". 

"It has taken 14 years for our family to have some answers about how our father died, and although we still have questions that may never be answered, we feel that today marks a degree of justice and closure.

"We never believed that our father took his own life, and the coroner has examined the evidence over the course of this inquest and has reached the same conclusion." 

McCrisken commended the family for their "patience and fortitude" over the last number of years and said it was unfortunate that no one had ever been convicted in relation to his death.