St Albans carpenter’s death linked to cocaine abuse

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Hatfield Coroner's Court - Credit: Archant

A carpenter found dead in his bed had succumbed to heart failure related to cocaine use, an inquest heard.

Divorced father Stuart Mitchell, 45, was discovered by colleagues at his lodgings in The Black Boy pub, Old Watford Road, Bricket Wood, on May 12 after he didn’t turn up for work.

He was unresponsive and paramedics called to the scene did not attempt resuscitation because he had obviously been dead for some time.

Although he had previously undergone investigations for heart palpitations, they had not revealed any underlying medical problems, he was not on any medication and appeared to have passed away peacefully in his sleep after his heart stopped suddenly. There was nothing to suggest anything but a natural cause of death.

However, because the cause of death was unknown, a post mortem examination was carried out, and even then initial findings showed no signs of lung disease, cancer, a stroke or any other obvious cause.

But the histology and toxicology report showed damage to Mr Mitchell’s heart which indicated it had been beating too fast at some point in the past - although this was not a genetic condition - together with traces of metabolite cocaine, which indicated he had previously taken the drug although not at the time he died.

This was not in itself lethal, but could have been the cause of death in conjunction with the heart damage.

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Coroner Edward Thomas said there was a strong relationship between the heart beating, cocaine use and the sudden stopping of the heart beat.

He noted the cause of Mr Mitchell’s death as acute cardio failure due to cocaine use, and because he had taken the drug for pleasure, his death was unwanted, so the verdict recorded was accidental death.

He concluded the inquest by warning of the dangers of taking cocaine, as damage to the heart can occur after just a single dose.