Stevenage support worker died after overdose of drug ordered from Mexico, inquest hears

The inquest into the death of Andrew Dale was held at Hertfordshire Coroners Office. Picture: Kevin

The inquest into the death of Andrew Dale was held at Hertfordshire Coroners Office. Picture: Kevin Lines - Credit: Archant

A Stevenage support worker with a history of mental health problems died after taking an overdose of drugs he had been secretly ordering in from Mexico, an inquest has heard.

Andrew Dale was found dead at the home he lived at with his landlord in Shackleton Spring on December 19 last year.

There was no evidence of injury, and there were two empty bottles of a Mexican branded veterinary drug – usually used to anaesthetise animals – in the room when he died.

His family – including parents Mike and Janine Dale, and his partner Alyson Thirtle – attended the hearing at Hertfordshire Coroners’ Office in Hatfield on Tuesday.

Mr Dale’s medical history showed he had been prescribed medication to treat depression and anxiety from 2013, and his mental health was deemed stable in 2016. Before his death, the inquest heard that Mr Dale’s mental state was the best it had been for a long time.

Evidence was heard from Stevenage GP Dr Kathryn McManus of Knebworth and Marymead surgery, his mother Janine, father Mike, his partner Alyson, and Det Con David Anstey from the Stevenage Local Crime Unit.

DC Anstey told the inquest: “On 18 December, 2016, Mr Dale was at home, and throughout day was seen by his landlord, who said he appeared fine, and ‘nothing struck him as out of place’.

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“The last time he saw him was Mr Dale collected a glass of water at 11pm before returning to his bedroom.

“The landlord awoke at 9am, made breakfast and sent emails – he didn’t think it was unusual when Mr Dale didn’t come down thinking he was lying in.

“At 2pm Mr Dale’s father arrived and asked if his son was in. He saw his shoes were there so the landlord concluded he was still at home.

“The landlord walked upstairs, and saw Mr Dale lying on the bed flat on his back and looking up at ceiling. His skin was grey in colour.”

The inquest heard that an ambulance arrived at 2.11pm, and Mr Dale, 45, was declared dead at 2.13pm.

Mr Dale’s father Mike said during the hearing: “As his father, I knew he was dead.”

There was no evidence of a head injury or a wound of any kind. The paramedic located two empty bottles of the veterinary drug and the police were informed.

A package of bottles of the drug were found in his room, dated 2013 and with a Mexican postmark.

DC Anstey said there were a number of searches on Mr Dale’s phone about the drug, including whether it could still work when out of date.

The inquest heard that Mr Dale’s family said he didn’t like taking medication and preferred to find herbal remedies, usually from a shops but sometimes online – and that he used self-help solutions to help his mental health problems.

His mother Janine said: “When they went through his belongings in flat all items were all about positivity, no way could he have taken own life.”

Evidence from his partner Alyson Thirtle was read out, which said: “We were a very close couple always open and honest about depression and anxiety.

“We had been together a year, and he moved most of his belongings into my flat. We were looking forward to our future together.

“Although we weren’t married, we were soulmates. But unfortunately people with mental health are left to cope on their own.”

Summing up, coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “The cause of death provided by pathologist was an overdose, with a blood concentration well within range of fatalities.

“Mr Dale’s partner felt he was the happiest he had been for some time in period leading up to his death and much the same picture is given by Janine Dale also.

“The evidence I have is that Mr Dale did suffer with mental health problems for a number of years.

“The drug is not the sort he would normally use. There was no reason for him to have it, none of his family were aware of it, he had no history of illicit drug use, and had a preference to herbal remedies.

“Evidence from the family and a doctor was that he appeared to be doing very well, and there was no note of an intention to harm himself found anywhere on his phone or written on paper in his home.

“So while I am sure he did take the medication himself, I’m not sure he did it with intenton to take his own life.

“I’m not satisfied that I am sure it is deliberate and, on that basis, given that I’m not in position to record a substantive conclusion, an open verdict is one I will record.”