Belfast Telegraph

Man who claimed he spent £1,500 a week on drugs died following accidental overdose

BY DAVID YOUNG

A businessman who once claimed to spend up to £1,500 a week on drugs died after taking a lethal combination of drink and medication, a coroner has found.

The inquest into the death of 29-year-old Mark Ferguson from Antrim heard that one of the drugs found in his system had been prescribed by a doctor after he expressed fears his life was at risk, claiming someone had put a bullet through the door of his flat.

Coroner Jim Kitson ruled that the overdose that ultimately killed him was a "tragic accident" and that he had not intended to take his own life.

Mr Ferguson's mother Violet told the court in Belfast she was not aware of her son's past problems with drugs and could not believe the news when she was informed he was dead.

"It was such a shock," Mrs Ferguson said.

"It was the last thing I expected to hear."

Mr Ferguson, who ran his own car maintenance business, was found dead in his second floor flat in Greenpark Drive in the town last June.

A post-mortem examination detected high levels of morphine and the anti-depressant Mirtazapine in his system. Diazepam, cocaine and alcohol were also present.

Mr Ferguson's GP told the court that of the two drugs – Mirtazapine and Diazepam – that had been prescribed by him, the latter was to address stress brought on by concerns for his safety.

Dr Gary Turk said: "He said a live round had been put through his door and felt his life was being threatened for some reason, but he didn't know why."

Police were initially unable to gain access to Mr Ferguson's flat, where he lived alone, because he had reinforced drop-down bars fitted to the inside door. Firefighters were required to break it down.

Dr Turk said Mr Ferguson had been to see him on a "semi-regular" basis in the four years leading up to his death with a number of drugs and drink issues.

The doctor told the court that in 2008 he claimed he was spending between £500 to £1,500 a week on drugs.

Mr Kitson said that seemed an "extraordinary amount".

Dr Turk agreed that the figure had struck him as being very high.

"That amount of money seemed to be a huge amount of money to be spending on drugs," he said.

The doctor said he had no way of knowing if it had been a "realistic" estimate but that, if it was accurate, such an intake would have had a devastating effect on Mr Ferguson's health.

Mr Kitson said: "We can only speculate whether that figure was accurate."

Dr Turk said he had referred Mr Ferguson for a number of drug counselling appointments but he had not attended.

The doctor revealed that he also suffered a number of epileptic fits, caused by excessive drink and drugs use.

Giving evidence to the court, pathologist Dr Peter Ingram said it was unlikely that such a seizure had been a factor in the death.

The expert noted the position of Mr Ferguson's body when it was found – reclined on a sofa with a hand behind his head – and said it did not indicate a violent fit had occurred.

The pathologist said the volume of morphine found was at a level that on its own could have been lethal. He said the combination of all the drugs and alcohol would have had a significant depressant effect on Mr Ferguson's central nervous system – one that had likely halted his breathing.

Mrs Ferguson described her son as "happy-go-lucky". "He kept a lot of things to himself and tried to cope as best he could. He never really opened up," she said

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Delivering his findings, Mr Kitson described the incident as a "tragedy". "I am quite satisfied that Mr Ferguson did not intend to take his own life and this was a tragic accident," he said, passing his condolences to his family members. "He had some difficulties in his life but was a young man who would battle through those and remained of cheerful disposition."

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