MYSTERY surrounds the death of a popular Rowley Regis man who was found with knife wounds to his neck - after an inquest into the case recorded an open conclusion.

Craig Rushton, who lived with his parents in Britannia Road, was discovered in an alley off George Avenue, Rowley Regis, on November 18 last year.

A police officer attempted CPR, but nothing could be done to save him.

At an inquest into the death of the 20-year-old warehouse worker - at the Black Country Coroner's Court in Oldbury yesterday (Wednesday) - Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield said there was no evidence to suggest the wounds were not self-inflicted.

She said a kitchen knife, which had been found near Craig's feet, matched the description of a knife missing from the family home.

But the former Leasowes High pupil's devastated parents David and Susan Rushton, insist he did not harm himself.

They said he seemed fine in the run up to and on the evening of his death - that he was learning to drive, looking forward to a family holiday in June and had saved up holiday at work to take a long break over Christmas.

They believe a third party was involved and that he had gone to meet someone.

His mum Susan told the inquest she was the last person to see Craig alive, at 10pm, when he came in from having a smoke outside, got a bottle of water, brushed his teeth and went back to his room where he was watching TV.

She said, on seeing a colour picture of the knife found near Craig for the first time, that it was not the one missing from the family home.

She said: "It's not my knife - I'm positive."

Craig's dad David said: "The police think it's suicide, but we don't agree. There was nothing wrong - people don't commit suicide for no reason. He was fine"

David said: "He was a quiet lad, he was quite shy with people, until you got to know him, then he'd come out of his shell. He was a nice lad."

Det Insp Corfield told the inquest police were called at 16 minutes past midnight by Matthew Porter who spotted Craig's body as he drove down the alley, which is wide enough allow vehicles, around 100 yards from Britannia Road.

Officers initially treated the death as a homicide - with a forensic examination of the scene taking place.

Det Insp Corfield said the only possession on Craig was his driving licence - his mobile and wallet were at home. She said CCTV showed Mr Porter's car leaving the alley at 9.38pm and returning at quarter past midnight, but apart from this showed "no movement of any vehicle or people into or out of the alley - apart from at 10.58pm when a single figure was seen walking calmly into the alley."

But she said there were a few gardens of homes neighbouring the alley, which CCTV did not cover.

She said examination of Craig's mobile had showed the only contact on the day of his death was to a drug dealer, asking for cannabis and "a tab". Officers traced Craig's phone to Wolverhampton - the owner of the mobile was also in the city.

Det Insp Corfield said Craig had conversations on Facebook about drug use and had told how he had experienced memory loss, mentioning being "bored of life."

Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique said toxicology reports showed traces of cannabis in Craig's system. The postmortem report stated the cause of death was stab wounds to the neck, which could have been self-inflicted, or inflicted by a third party.

Mr Siddique recorded an open conclusion saying there was no evidence Craig intended to take his own life but that a police investigation had uncovered "no direct evidence of third party involvement."

Police confirmed if new evidence was to emerge they would pursue it.

After the inquest the family paid tribute to much-loved son and brother Craig, saying he was a very popular pupil at Leasowes and that they had been moved by the huge amount of people who had attended his funeral. They said no-one they told of his sudden death could believe he intended to hurt himself.