A MAN died following a battle with chronic alcoholism which was kept secret from his family and friends.
Bolton Coroner’s Court heard how Craig Hitchen’s body was found in a gap between his home in Pine View, Winstanley and the house next door last December.
The hearing was told the 49-year-old forester was deeply affected by the loss of his mother in April 2012 and his grief affected his health, including losing weight and being unable to face eating.
But his cousin Carol Taylor and close friend Lynn Ashcroft said they believed Mr Hitchen to be a social drinker and were unaware of any serious drink problems. However medical records showed he attended the Shakespeare Surgery in Worsley Mesnes for alcohol-related problems between October 2009 and September 2012 where he latterly complained of tremors and night sweats.
Close friends had worried that Mr Hitchen’s worsening health had been triggered by an incident in which he suffered a blow to the head in September, but pathologist Dr Stephen Wells conclusively stated that any injuries caused by that accident played no part in his death.
Mrs Ashcroft said she became increasingly worried about Mr Hitchen in the months before his death as he exhibited symptoms including shaking hands. She said that in the final few days of his life he had seemed alarmingly tired and weak.
An autopsy revealed Mr Hitchen had suffered a fractured skull and a small amount of haemorrhaging, while there were also cuts to his hand and numerous bruises on his body, suggesting he had fallen more than once. The court heard these injuries were consistent with an incident on December 18 when Mr Hitchen explained to Mrs Ashcroft that several injuries including two black eyes were caused by a fall at home.
Dr Wells said Mr Hitchens also had a severely enlarged liver consistent with chronic alcoholism over a period of time.
However, he said he could not establish exactly when Mr Hitchen had died, and assistant deputy coroner Peter Watson accepted that in the absence of any witnesses it was not possible to say exactly what had happened to him.
Mr Watson recorded a narrative verdict stating that Mr Hitchen died from “abuse of alcohol exacerbated by an injury sustained during the course of an accidental fall.”
He said: “It is a very sad feature of this case that Mr Hitchen suffered all sorts of problems as a result of finding solace in drink after his mother’s death.”