At the time of his death, which temporarily plunged John Major's government into a minority, the 56-year-old backbench MP for Meriden, in the West Midlands, was found with more than five times the drink/drive limit of alcohol in his blood.
Derek Conway, a government whip, told Westminster coroner's court how he had found Mr Mills at the MP's flat in London where he had lain undiscovered for at least two days.
Paul Knapman, the coroner, said: "It is ... a sad story that nobody noticed that Iain Mills wasn't so much around ... until Mr Conway found him."
Mr Conway started searching for Mr Mills on the afternoon of 16 January, after the MP had failed to turn up for a crucial vote in the House of Commons two nights before. With a security guard, he found Mr Mills's body face down on the bed in his flat at a complex in Pimlico, central London.
Dr Knapman recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying that the alcohol level in Mr Mills's blood was "astonishingly high".
Peter Jerreat, a pathologist, said that Mr Mills's blood contained 472mg of alcohol per 100ml. Allowing for the effects of decomposition, he said, the level at the time of death was probably at least 400mg. The drink/drive limit is 80mg per 100ml.
The inquest was also told that Mr Mills had been taking pain-killers for toothache, but these had not played a significant role in his death.
Mr Conway said that Mr Mills had been drinking when he last saw him at the Commons on 13 January. The MP, he said, was often seen "round and about the bars" there, but had not mixed socially with his colleagues.
Outside the court Mr Conway said: "We were encouraging Iain to try and get a grip ... We knew he was drinking, but we had no idea it was in the order found by the pathologist." However, he added: "The reports ... from his constituency were that he was doing [his work] very well."
Mr Mills left a wife, Gaynor, who was not present at yesterday's hearing.Reuse content