Belfast Telegraph

Daughter's grief after lethal cocktail of alcohol and medication killed dad Tom McCleery

By Angela Rainey

A bereaved daughter has warned of the dangers of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol following the accidental death of her father in south Belfast.

Tom McCleery (50) was found dead in his Laurel Way home in Dunmurry on January 4, just three days before his birthday. He had accidentally poisoned himself having taken the sleeping tablet Zolpidem after drinking alcohol.

The inquest into his death, which was held yesterday at Laganside Court, heard how father-of-one Mr McCleery had been diagnosed with depression and had insomnia.

He had been prescribed a low dosage of the sleeping medication but had not realised that when mixed with alcohol the pair would become a lethal cocktail.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan heard how Zolpidem was a "hypnotic" drug and its effects, such as drowsiness and impaired mobility, would be exacerbated by alcohol, but that only "therapeutic levels" had been consumed by Mr McCleery.

A post-mortem examination carried out by State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane found that Mr McCleery would have been "heavily intoxicated" when he took the sleeping tablets and the combination ultimately caused "death by poisoning".

Mr McGurgan said he was satisfied that the toxic dose was consumed accidentally and that no other drugs or medication were found according to toxicology reports.

"No matter what age an individual is, mixing alcohol and medication is a dangerous combination and one that does not discriminate," he said. "Tom McCleery was a middle-aged man with no other health complaints, his life expectancy would have been much longer.

"However, drinking a large amount then taking prescription medication got the better of him and sadly caused him to slip away."

A member of a tight-knit family, Mr McCleery's devastated relatives attended his inquest where they described the unemployed painter as a "popular man" who enjoyed a sociable drink and as someone who would have "done anything for anyone".

They said their grief is still hard to bear and they are still coming to terms with their loss.

His daughter Kelly McCleery (33), said she hoped that warning the public might make people more aware of the dangers.

"Taking prescription medication with a drink is easily done, so many people do it and think nothing of it, but people need to realise how dangerous it is," she said.

"So if getting the message out helps one person or maybe makes them think, it will be a good thing.

"My dad was a really popular and kind-hearted man who had many friends - hundreds of people attended his funeral.

"He was thoughtful and kind, he would have taken a bus to somewhere he wasn't going to get something for someone even when it took him well out of his way. He was a good neighbour and well-known in the community because he would have done anything for anyone."

Miss McCleery recalled how her father was a sports fan who supported Tottenham Hotspurs, loved Formula One and excelled in playing pool. He particularly loved to receive cards from friends and thought very highly of them, many of whom he had known since school.

She added: "He was a really thoughtful person, he loved to receive cards and he would keep them for a long time.

"He would always have been the first to give birthday cards to others and he'd remember if you never sent him one and even take the huff over it.

"He was well thought of by others because he was the type of person who would always help out, he loved to see his family and his mates.

"When he was happy, he was really happy, he was on top of the world, but he could also get down over things but he was still very much loved by all of us."

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