Inquest hears homeless man's death due to cocktail of drugs

A homeless man collapsed in an alley after taking a toxic cocktail of cocaine and heroin and medics were unable to save him, an inquest heard.

Friday, 16th March 2018, 8:11 am
Updated Friday, 16th March 2018, 10:30 am
Chris Conlin

Chris Conlin died on his 31st birthday having been found in a passageway in Bradshawgate, Leigh, and having injected Class A drugs on the afternoon of November 5.

He was also suffering from pneumonia at the time of his death, and had been discharged from hospital just two days prior to falling ill behind the William Hill betting shop.

During his inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court, coroner Alan Walsh heard how Mr Conlin had been sleeping rough in Leigh since 2016, and had been living in tents and also a horse box in a field, alongside his brother David Joseph Conlin.

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A frequent drug-user, he had tried to go clean on many occasions but had “fallen back into old habits”, according to a statement from his father Mark Nightingale, which was read aloud in court.

In the hours before his death, CCTV captured Chris and David entering the alleyway at some time between noon and 1pm. In a statement from David, the court heard how the pair had purchased a small bag each of heroin and cocaine, which were taken into the alleyway where the pair began to inject the concoction.

It was shortly before 3pm when David noticed Chris had gone quiet and was slumped on his sleeping bag and gasping. After realising his brother may be overdosing, David dragged Chris out into the street, where passers-by noticed and rushed to help perform chest compressions.

Chris was rushed to Wigan Infirmary but was pronounced dead shortly after 4pm.

Pathologist Dr Stephen Wells described how a post-mortem examination found high levels of morphine in Mr Conlin’s system – from the heroin – and also “therapeutic” levels of other prescription medications which were used to treat his chest infection.

Scars were also found in his groin from where he had injected, and he was bruised from where David had dragged him out of the alleyway.

The court was also told details of Mr Conlin’s tragic turns in life. He had spiralled into depression and drug use after the death of his mother Michelle in 2006, and had been estranged from his father after the sudden death of his older brother in 2011. He spent time in prison but continued his drug habits after his release.

As the inquest went on, Mr Walsh raised concerns about how Mr Conlin was released so quickly from hospital, after it was revealed that drugs paraphernalia had been found in Conlin’s possessions after he had been admitted to Wigan Infirmary.

Used needles had been found attached to syringes in his bag during his hospital stay; a discovery which was not escalated to senior officials at the Ince Ward.

He was discharged on November 3 after being deemed “clinically fit” by a doctor, meaning his chest infection had cleared up enough for him to treat it himself with a course of antibiotics. It was revealed that the doctor who made the decision was not aware Mr Conlin had been sleeping rough.

Mr Walsh said: “This is becoming a bigger mess the more evidence we hear.”

He said: “I’m becoming concerned that drugs were taken in a hospital and nothing was escalated, other than a quick chat with him (Mr Conlin).”

He also said that hospital staff had “a duty and a responsibility” to prevent people from bringing drugs into a hospital”, although no there was no proof that Mr Conlin had actually ingested any drugs during his time at the infirmary.

Mr Conlin’s death sparked allegations – later proven false – that he had been refused accommodation from the council after being released from hospital.

But the inquest heard that he had been spoken to by support workers from homelessness project The Brick about temporary accommodation before he was released from hospital – an offer which he declined.

Concluding, Mr Walsh was satisfied Mr Conlin’s death was a result of combined drugs toxicity rather than pneumonia, saying: “Without taking those drugs, he would not have died at that time.”