Man's chimney death 'very tragic'
A suspected burglar was found dead in a chimney at a solicitor's office in "very unusual" and "very tragic circumstances", a coroner has said.
The body of Kevin Gough, 43, was discovered inside the chimney stack at Moody & Woolley Solicitors in St Mary's Gate, Derby, on May 1.
Builders made the grim discovery while carrying out repairs on a chimney stack at the terraced property.
An inquest into Mr Gough's death at Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner's Court heard that prior to this staff at the business had noticed a bad smell and a pest control company had been contacted.
Police were called and officers gained access inside the law firm, housed in a terraced property, and found Mr Gough's badly decomposed body stuck inside the chimney.
The chimney breast and fireplace had been completely bricked up from the inside.
Mr Gough, whose last address was listed at Ashdown Crescent in St Helens, Merseyside, was identified from his fingerprints.
It is not clear why Mr Gough had gone into the chimney but coroner Dr Robert Hunter said he was satisfied he had made his way in there of his own volition and nobody else had been involved.
Detective Constable Tom Bentley, of Derbyshire Police CID, told the inquest Mr Gough had been arrested on March 13 because he was found to be in possession of prescribed medication that was not in his own name.
He was also wanted in connection with a previous dwelling burglary at a business on The Strand in Derby.
Mr Gough, who was unemployed but had in the past worked as a blind manufacturer, was subsequently released from police custody and last seen alive on March 15 when he had breakfast at the Padley Centre, an organisation that helps homeless people.
The inquest heard that a post mortem found he had brick marks across his back and chest due to the confined space he had come to rest in, which would not allow his chest to expand and would have affected his ability to breathe.
His t-shirt had drawn up around his neck in the tightness of the space and would have also constricted his airway, the coroner said.
There was also a lack of air in the chimney because the bottom had been completely sealed up and a piece of Mr Gough's clothing had blocked the top, meaning there was no oxygen coming in.
Mr Gough's cause of death was found to have been caused by postural asphyxiation.
Dr Hunter told Mr Gough's mother, who was at the inquest with other family members, that her son would have passed out quickly.
"There would have been a rapid loss of consciousness," he said, "and death within a manner of minutes.
"This would be why he did not call for help and the people working within the building had not heard him."
Dr Hunter said methadone had been found in Mr Gough's liver but the amount was not enough to have caused his death, and recorded a conclusion of misadventure.
He said he would not have been aware that he would become trapped in the chimney.
"He had gone to that premises and had entered that chimney," the coroner said.
"What he would not know is that the chimney had been blocked up."
Dr Hunter said Mr Gough would likely have realised there was no way out when he got to the bottom and he had got stuck.
He told the family that the pathologist who carried out the post mortem was keen to emphasise that he would have quickly lost consciousness and would not have been calling for help for a long period of time.
Mr Hunter said: "His death would have been very, very quick.
"He would not have lingered in the chimney for two or three days.
"It's a little bit of comfort, not a great comfort, I'm sure you'd prefer to have him alive and well."