The father of the teenager fighting for his life after suffering liver failure has spoken out to defend his son after it emerged that he left his hospital bed to visit a pub last week.
Brian Anderson said he had asked his son Gareth “over and over again” why he tried to buy a drink in a pub just yards from the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
Gareth visited the Old Moat Inn with a drip attached to each arm last Wednesday and tried to buy a drink. The incident happened before Gareth knew he was dying following a binge drinking session.
Gareth, who has since been transferred to Kings College Hospital in London, was refused service by bar staff at the Inn after they realised he had come from the nearby hospital.
One staff member at the popular establishment said the management had a strict policy over serving people under such circumstances.
“He was looking quite poorly,” the staff member, who would only give his first name as Colin, told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We offered him something to eat and a soft drink. It was very unusual to see someone so young.
“We get a lot of hospital trade coming in. We would occasionally get people sneaking in and we would know they’re not local.”
The man emphasised that Gareth was refused alcohol by staff at the bar.
“We have a strict policy and are very selective about who we serve. It was fairly clear he was ill and shouldn’t be here,” he said.
Staff at the bar rang the hospital, which is just over the road from the pub, after seeing that Gareth was still wearing a hospital wristband, whereupon he was brought back to his ward.
Mr Anderson’s father Brian said he had asked his son “over and over again” why he visited the pub.
“I said ‘what were you thinking about son?’ and he said ‘I don’t know, I just don’t know’,” he said.
“How is his head supposed to think at 19 years of age, knowing that he’s going to die? He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He needs mental help as well.”
Mr Anderson said he believed it was time to consider that Gareth may have a serious problem with alcohol.
“That’s why I want to get the psychologist involved,” he told the BBC. “I want to know what is going on in his head. It is alcoholism but there’s a mental problem here as well.”