A 22-year-old Mansfield man collapsed and died of a heroin overdose at the Hucknall home of his best friend’s estranged wife, an inquest was told
The tragedy unfolded at Fir Close, off Lime Tree Road, while the woman, Samantha Bickerton, was asleep upstairs with her three children on the night of Tuesday 6th May.
Mrs Bickerton was unaware that her husband, Daniel, had crept into the house with his mate, Joseph Lewis, to see if they could stay the night there.
She told the Nottingham inquest she had left the front door unlocked because she had ‘an irrational fear of my house catching fire and not being able to find the keys’.
At around 6.30am, she said she was woken by Daniel crying and screaming: “He’s dead, he’s dead! Joe’s dead!”
“I was shaking,” Mrs Bickerton recalled, fighting back the tears. “I had no idea they were even there. I saw Joe, and it was apparent. Daniel was absolutely distraught.”
Mrs Bickerton told the inquest she had moved to Hucknall from Lord Street, Mansfield, in March after she had split up with her husband because of ‘domestic problems’.
Mr Lewis, whose last known address was a bedsit on Kipling Street, Mansfield, worked as a canvasser for Cancer Research. He was the former boyfriend of Mr Bickerton’s sister, Jade Tonkinson, of Little John Drive, Rainworth.
Both Mr Lewis and Mr Bickerton were described as habitual users of drugs, particularly cannabis.
It was suggested that Mr Lewis might have been addicted to diazepam (also known as valium). And his father, Geoff, said his son ‘was eating prescription tablets like Smarties’.
Mr Bickerton told the inquest Mr Lewis had been ‘my rock -- the person who got me through life after my mental breakdown’.
It was also revealed that Mr Lewis once saved Mr Bickerton’s life after a heroin overdose of his own.
On this fateful night in Hucknall, Mr Bickerton also tried to save Mr Lewis when he woke up in the front room to find his mate squatting on all fours, he told the inquest.
He gave him chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. “I could see he was dead, but I thought I would try my best,” he said.
When paramedics arrived, Mr Bickerton told them he thought Mr Lewis might have taken heroin.
Dr Irshad Soomro, who conducted a post mortem examination on Mr Lewis, said he was ‘100 per cent certain’ that the cause of death was drugs.
Dr Neil Greig, who produced a toxicology report for the post mortem examination, said ‘potentially lethal’ levels of morphine were found in Mr Lewis’s body, which were consistent with heroin use, probably more than three hours before his death.
The therapeutic levels of diazepam found had increased the risk of a heroin overdose, he added.
The inquest was told that Mr Lewis had been complaining of excruciating stomach pains for several weeks, and had allegedly been assaulted by police officers while in custody three months earlier.
But Dr Greig stressed that the post mortem examination had yielded ‘no other clinically significant findings’.
The inquest into his death exposed an extraordinary family feud that led to heated exchanges during the hearing.
Mr Lewis’s parents separated many years ago, but feelings were running high, and on more than one occasion, Assistant Coroner Amanda Cranny had to issue warnings about behaviour and protocol in the court room
The hearing was adjourned by Ms Cranny, and will be completed at a later date.