Man who supplied drugs to his friend - a former Wiganer - is found not guilty of his manslaughter

Nicholas Milligan
Nicholas Milligan

A man who supplied drugs to a friend and then failed to get medical attention for him after he took a fatal overdose until it was too late has been cleared of causing his death.


Nicholas Milligan collapsed in tears in the dock as a jury unanimously found him not guilty of the manslaughter of former Wigan man Josh Armstrong.

Josh Armstrong

Josh Armstrong

But Milligan, 25, of School Lane, Up Holland, who had denied the charge, still faces being sentenced for supplying cocaine and morphine to 22-year-old Josh.

His case at Warwick Crown Court was adjourned for a pre-sentence report, and Milligan, who pleaded guilty to supplying morphine and, because there was none left to be analysed, attempting to supply cocaine, was remanded in custody.

Prosecutor Annabel Darlow QC had alleged that Milligan was responsible for Josh’s death because of “gross negligence” after supplying him with the drugs and failing to get medical attention in time.

Josh had died of a morphine overdose at his home in Jersey Close, Coventry, where he lived with his girlfriend Holly McLeish after moving from Wigan for an IT job at Resorts World Birmingham.

In February 2017 he invited Milligan, an old friend, to visit for the weekend, and Milligan travelled to Birmingham by train, bringing with him cocaine and morphine for them to share.

Josh, who Milligan said had arranged for the cocaine to be supplied to him, collected him from the station.

They then returned to Jersey Close, arriving at around midnight, and began taking cocaine and drinking, with Josh also taking two particularly strong morphine tablets.

Miss Darlow said Josh had been a recreational user of cocaine and cannabis, but was otherwise a fit and healthy young man, and had been trying to reduce his consumption.

In messages exchanged with Holly, Josh had spoken of Milligan also having morphine which he was going to take and, when she expressed concern, assuring her “I’ll be alright.”

All three of them took the cocaine, and by three in the morning Milligan’s supply had run out, so Josh made a phone call to arrange to buy another £30 worth.

Holly went to bed at about 6am, and at some point after that became aware of Josh in bed next to her – but was woken at 11.30am by the sound of his breathing.

It sounded as if he was struggling, and as she rolled him onto his back and tried to wake him, he seemed to stop breathing but then start again, and he looked grey, with a blue tinge around his mouth and sweating, but feeling cold to the touch.

She ran to Milligan, who was sleeping in the spare bedroom, to ask him for help.

“The defendant came to look at Josh and looked for a pulse. After he had done that, he told Holly that Josh had a pulse and was in a very deep sleep, and that Josh would probably wake up in a few hours,” said Miss Darlow.

Milligan, who admitted that before going to bed Josh had told him he did not feel right, was said to have remarked: “He’s an idiot. I told him not to take more than one.”

He put Josh into the recovery position, flicked water on his face and put a bowl next to him in case he was sick, and then went back to bed while Holly stayed with Josh.

“He took no meaningful action and did not seek any medical assistance for his friend, instead telling Holly McLeish that Mr Armstrong just needed to sleep it off.

“Holly relied on what the defendant said to her, his false and self-serving assurance that all would be well.

“Had an ambulance been called at the time Mr Armstrong was found collapsed, he would have survived,” alleged Miss Darlow.

She said the morphine tablets were of a particularly high strength, and taking more than one would be fatal for anyone who had not built up a tolerance to them.

“After an hour or so his pulse stopped and it sounded as if he was choking.

“She shouted to Nick who picked Josh up and carried him onto the landing, saying he could feel a pulse and would take him downstairs and look after him.

“He attempted to do CPR, then said he was going to call an ambulance, and the ambulance was called at around 20 to one.

“The ambulance attended very quickly. They found Josh lying on his back and the defendant performing chest compressions. The paramedics took over in an unsuccessful attempt to revive Josh. He was flatlining,” said Miss Darlow.

And she told the jury: “Had an ambulance been called at about 11.30, Mr Armstrong would have survived.”

But giving evidence, Milligan insisted he did not know Josh had taken any of the morphine tablets, and said: “If I had known, I would have done anything to help my friend.”

He said that when he had moved him into the recovery position after being called by Holly, Josh had moved his legs, and he had not believed he looked unwell.

Milligan denied a suggestion by Miss Darlow that it had been ‘plain as a pikestaff’ at 11.30 that he should have called an ambulance, adding: “Josh was my best friend. If I could do anything to bring him back, I would.”