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Friends who put food on man's face at house party didn't know he was dying


James Devlin was originally from Glasgow but had been living in Donegal

James Devlin was originally from Glasgow but had been living in Donegal

James Devlin was originally from Glasgow but had been living in Donegal

Friends of a man who overdosed at a house party in Co Donegal covered his face with ketchup, mayonnaise, pizza and vinegar as he lay sleeping, unaware he was dying.

An inquest sitting in Letterkenny Court heard James Devlin took five times the therapeutic dose of methadone, as well as a dangerous cocktail of alcohol and other drugs.

The 35-year-old, who was originally from Glasgow but had been living in Strabane, was a recovering heroin addict who suffered from schizophrenia and epilepsy.

The inquest heard how Mr Devlin's friends filmed their prank without knowing his life was in danger.

The hearing was told that the house party started after the deceased and a group of friends from Ballybofey went out drinking in nearby Stranorlar on May 25, 2018.

Samantha Malley, a member of the group, said that as well as drinking shots, Mr Devlin and a number of friends snorted Lyrica, a brand name for the pregablin nerve drug.

Ms Malley said that after leaving a bar, the group bought four bottles of wine and other alcohol from an off-licence before getting a taxi back to a Ballybofey flat belonging to another of the friends, Laura Sheehan.

Ms Malley said she saw Mr Devlin "take a big gulp" out of a bottle of methadone prescribed to Ms Sheehan's ex-partner Damien Murphy, who lived in the flat above her.

When she asked him why he had taken the methadone, Mr Devlin replied: "It will be all right."

Mr Devlin and Mr Murphy then left the apartment to collect some takeaway food and returned at approximately 12.30am. Mr Devlin fell asleep on Ms Sheehan's sofa a short time afterwards.

In evidence which was read out in court in her absence, Ms Sheehan said that while Mr Devlin was asleep, people at the party poured ketchup and mayonnaise over him and rubbed pizza and vinegar into his face.

Ms Sheehan said she filmed the prank at the start but as it escalated began to think it was "disrespectful to me and disrespectful to James, who was asleep".

She began to clean up the mess and asked her friends to leave because it was 7.30am and her children would be getting up soon.

It was while she was tidying up that Ms Sheehan noticed Mr Devlin had stopped snoring.

After checking for a pulse, she raised the alarm and shouted to Mr Murphy: "He's dead, he's dead."

Friends performed CPR on Mr Devlin while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Despite paramedics' efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The inquest was told a post-mortem examination showed Mr Devlin had a level of methadone in his blood equivalent to five times the therapeutic dose.

This, combined with high levels of other drugs, caused his brain to shut down.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley said someone on a methadone programme would have had a higher tolerance to the cocktail of drugs than Mr Devlin.

He returned a verdict of death by misadventure as a result of drug toxicity.

Coroner McCauley also said the prank had no role in the tragedy.

Belfast Telegraph