Tragic death of man, 39, an accident

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A CORONER has warned of the dangers of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol after a bricklayer tragically died from an overdose.

Graham Welsh, 39, was found dead in his house in St David’s Walk, Hartlepool, on November 21, after last being seen two nights earlier.

An inquest into his death at Hartlepool Coroner’s Court heard he had been on a heavy drinking session and was found next to two empty blister packs that had contained 20 morphine-based tablets.

It is not certain whether he took all of his girlfriend’s prescribed painkillers, but a post-mortem examination found a “significant” amount of morphine in his system and alcohol equating to around eight pints of lager.

A thorough police investigation led by Detective Sergeant Jim Allen, of Hartlepool CID, was immediately launched and found no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

There were also concerns that Mr Welsh may have taken his own life but no suicide note was found and his girlfriend, Victoria Brannagan, told investigators that Mr Welsh had taken some of her pills before to “get high”.

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly, who led the inquest, ruled that it was an accidental death by the overdose of a prescribed drug.

He said: “I think the evidence shows he was fond of a good time and he quite enjoyed the feeling he got taking these tablets in conjunction with alcohol and wasn’t thinking of the consequences.

“I think his death was accidental, it wasn’t intentional.”

He added: “When you go to sleep your natural reflex is to breathe but the combination of morphine, and many other substances, and alcohol depresses that reflex.

“That is the reflex that makes you jump up in the middle of the night, it makes sure you are getting enough oxygen.

“If you don’t get that oxygen, you fall asleep and don’t wake up.

“It’s more typically seen with illegal substances, such as heroin, but even prescribed medicine can be extremely dangerous mixed with alcohol.”

The inquest heard suicide concerns were particularly relevant as Mr Welsh, who had moved to Hartlepool from Liverpool and was known as “Scouse”, was in almost £10,000-worth of debt to Government agencies.

But work was coming in and the contractor had been working for the RAF just before his death while another employer was hoping to take him on full-time.

Mr Donnelly added: “All the people that have been spoken to, his employers and friends, have all said he was a happy-go-lucky person.

“Yes, he had problems, but nothing he wasn’t prepared to face.

“I think this is just an accident. He had a lot of things going for him and wasn’t in despair.”