Belfast Telegraph

Young dad died of prescription drug overdose, not tea that was poisoned

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

A coroner has said it was "wholly improbable" that a north Belfast man died as a result of his tea being poisoned with drugs.

Barry Boyd (22) died of multiple organ failure in the Royal Victoria Hospital last March, five weeks after he was hospitalised.

He was found suffering with serious breathing difficulties by his father in his home in the Cliftonville area in January last year.

At an inquest into his death held in Belfast yesterday, evidence was given that he had taken up to 20 tablets of a prescription drug the night before he was found by his father.

At the time of his death family members had raised concerns that he may have been poisoned, but a police investigation concluded the father-of-two's death was not suspicious.

Mr Boyd's younger brother Gary gave a statement to police in the wake of the incident.

But Coroner Jim Kitson said he did not intend the statement to form part of the proceedings.

The coroner stressed that the decision should not be considered a disparagement of Mr Boyd, or his credibility.

Giving evidence, his father Gary Boyd had said he was only aware of his son smoking cannabis.

And a friend, Daniel McNally, had said he had admitted taking the prescription drug Tramadol once, but it had made him feel ill.

Another witness who was with Barry the night before he collapsed said they went to his flat where they made tea.

He then watched as Mr Boyd took around 20 tablets within half an hour.

Darren O'Sullivan said Mr Boyd did not know what he was taking.

He told the court he believed he was taking what were known as "budweisers" – slang for a type of prescription drugs.

But after checking the back of the packet, Mr O'Sullivan told Mr Boyd they were in fact Tramadol, a narcotic-like pain reliever

He said Mr Boyd was shocked when he was told.

Mr Kitson asked Mr O'Sullivan how he knew the difference.

"I knew they weren't," he said. "Normally they are red and yellow or red and white.

"They were a small capsule – plain white."

He said Mr Boyd told him he got them from "a wee fella" up the road.

Mr Kitson asked him directly: "Did you at any stage place them in Barry's tea?

"No, sir." Mr O'Sullivan said Mr Boyd was "surprised" when he told them what they were.

"When he left he was "100%", he said.

Mr Boyd, who was looking after his three-year-old daughter that night, was found just after 8am the next morning by his father.

His son had asked him to wake him up as he was visiting a friend in Maghaberry Prison.

He was rushed to hospital but died five weeks later.

Mr Kitson said there had been "rumour" that he had been poisoned by drugs in his tea.

However, speaking yesterday, Mr Kitson said that after hearing the evidence he discounted that as "wholly improbable".

A post-mortem report revealed traces of cannabinoids and benzodiazepines in his urine.

But due to the blood samples taken by the hospital no longer being available, the exact drugs he took that led to the overdose will never be known.

Mr Kitson said this was "regrettable" but he was confident that Mr Boyd did not know what he was taking.

He also pointed out that the man had a rare health condition which affected his kidneys, and he had also suffered from a rare form of heart attack.

Mr Kitson recorded Mr Boyd's cause of death as multiple organ failure caused by a mixed drug overdose.

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