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Inquest told man fell ill in police van.

Byline: Sophie Barley Reporter

AN alcoholic died after falling ill in a police van while he had a "dangerously high" level of alcohol in his system, an inquest heard.

Stuart Collins, 37, from Middlesbrough, is believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest while in the police van on October 9, 2012.

An inquest into his death began yesterday at Teesside Coroner's Court in front of a jury.

It is being attended by members of Mr Collins' family including his partner Patricia Hutchinson. The inquest heard that Mr Collins, an unemployed welder, was receiving treatment at Middlesbrough's James Cook University Hospital when staff asked for police assistance.

Mr Collins was then taken away by police and he was laid in the footwell in the back of the police van. He became unresponsive and was rushed back to James Cook where he was later pronounced dead.

Pathologist Dr Mark Egan carried out a postmortem examination and toxicology test on Mr Collins' body.

He told the hearing that Mr Collins had suffered hypoxic brain damage caused by cardiac arrest.

Dr Egan said that the toxicology test showed that Mr Collins had "extremely high levels of alcohol" in his system when he attended James Cook University Hospital on the second occasion.

He said he had 455mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system.

Dr Egan told the inquest that 80mg is the driving limit, anything over 350mg is potentially fatal and anything over 400mg causes a "very significant risk of death".

Dr Egan said there was also a therapeutic level of prescribed medication including diazepam in his system which would not have caused his death but may have contributed to it.

Assistant Coroner Claire Bailey asked Dr Egan if Mr Collins being placed in a foetal position in the police van could have contributed to the cardiac arrest.

Dr Egan said that he found no signs of positional asphyxia - which occurs when someone's position prevents the person from breathing adequately.

The inquest heard that Mr Collins had a history of alcohol addiction and had made dozens of trips to his GP and hospital due to the addiction and overdosing on prescribed medication.

He lived at Stages Academy, in Bridge Street West, Middlesbrough, which provides housing for vulnerable adults.

However in the weeks leading up to his death there had been a number of incidents including an occasion when he was abusive to staff. This resulted in Mr Collins being evicted from the accommodation.

The inquest is expected to last three days.

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 14, 2013
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