St Albans wanderer dies from fatal cocktail of drugs

PUBLISHED: 12:15 21 January 2014

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Archant

A wanderer with a history of swapping medication died after taking a fatal combination of different drugs, an inquest heard on Thursday.

Barrie Williams, originally from Liverpool, passed away in his sleep on September 13 at the St Albans homeless shelter Open Door in Bricket Wood after checking in the night before.

Police were called to the refuge on September 13 after staff found the 27 year old lying on his bed unresponsive.

Empty blister packets were found in his room as well as someone else’s medication on his bedside table, which was later found out to have been reported missing.

The staff member behind the desk on the night before he died said Barrie, thought to be a father-of-two, bought her a chocolate bar as it was her last day, but that he did not seem as chatty as normal.

Evidence read out at the inquest from his GP suggested there was concern that he was taking too much medication and his doctor tried to restrict this.

A post-mortem examination revealed no signs of alcohol but that he had misused morphine, which was probably taken from somebody else, and that he had taken cocaine.

West Herts Coroner Edward Thomas said: “A combination of all these medications, particularly one of two that were most likely prescribed, can be potentially fatal if somebody is not used to it.

“The combined effect of all that [medication] can depress the respiratory system. You don’t breathe as effectively and your lungs and then your heart begin to fail.

“It depresses his respiratory system, it can’t rectify itself and he dies in his sleep.”

The inquest was told Barrie had moved from Liverpool after having “quite a dramatic time in life”.

He reportedly spoke to his family in Liverpool just before his death and was in quite good spirits and due to see them the following week.

Summarising the death as “unintended and unwanted”, Mr Thomas added: “The amounts are prescribed not just the medication. It was a risky thing to do. Everybody spoke highly of him and were very fond of him.”

He ruled the death as misadventure.

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