A CORONER has ruled the death of a man described by his family as a “lovable rogue” was drug related.

An inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court heard that the body of Jamie Russell Cameron was found in a tent near to Dene Court where he had been sleeping rough on the afternoon of June 10.

On hearing evidence, senior coroner Grahame Short concluded that the 38-year-old had lived a “chaotic lifestyle” and his death was drug related after toxic levels of amitriptyline, nortriptyline and methadone were found in his system.

The inquest heard that the father-of-two, formerly known as Jamie Russell Bennett, was born in Cyprus in 1977 and had been living in a tent on a piece of wasteland off Eastern Avenue while occasionally using a crash bed at Dene Court.

He had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, which began at the age of 15, for which he was prescribed methadone and had served a number of custodial sentences for drug-related offences.

His friend Jake Hughes was also residing in a tent alongside him and Mr Hughes and his partner Sue Fern had seen him in the early hours of the morning on the day of his death when he appeared to be “out of it” on drugs.

In a statement read out at the inquest, Mr Hughes said that Mr Cameron had a tendency to take all of his medication on a Friday to get “wrecked”.

Mr Hughes had seen Mr Cameron in his tent at around 10am that morning on his way to The Bridge and when he and Miss Fern returned to the tents at 12.45pm he was face down and motionless which is when the couple realised he was not breathing and called the police and ambulance.

A statement by his GP, Dr Matt Ferris of St Mary’s Surgery, was also read out at the hearing and confirmed that he was prescribed a number of medications in addition to methadone including diazepam, pregabalin and zopiclone but that St Mary’s had not prescribed him amitriptyline or nortriptyline.

Giving evidence, consultant histopathologist Dr Hayley Burnley, from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, found the presence of alcoholic steatohepatitis around his liver which would have impaired his body’s ability to cope with the concoction of drugs in his system.

She said: “The liver did show some fatty change and inflammation which is called alcoholic steatohepatitis and occurs in somebody who has consumed excess alcohol for some time, but no evidence of cirrhosis.”

Dr Burnley described how a toxicology report showed raised levels of amitripyline and nortripyline, which depress the central nervous system causing a reduced response.

She concluded: “The fact that there were no further findings suggest this being the mechanism by which death arose.”

A report read out from Gary Hutchings, of Inclusion, the drug and alcohol support service, confirmed that Mr Cameron had made a recent suicide attempt, however the statements of Mr Hughes and Miss Fern say that they do not believe that he intended to take his life that day.

Concluding his verdict, Mr Short said: “I can say therefore that the facts I find are that Jamie was a 38-year-old man, he was living rough on an area of land at the back of Dene Court.

“He had a tent where he was sleeping on a regular basis in that area.

“He is described as having a chaotic lifestyle and this seems to me to be an accurate way of describing the way he was living.”

He continued: “I have no reason to doubt he was alone, there is no evidence to suggest that his friend or another third party was with him.

“He was not prescribed amitriptyline and I don’t know where it came from.

“When I read the report from Inclusion there was mention of a recent suicide attempt and it is reported that he took a drug overdose.

“I accept that it is possible on this occasion that he had taken an overdose but there is no evidence that he intended to take his own life.

“Although I think it is possible, I am not going to record that as a conclusion.

“His death is therefore related to the ingestion of drugs, I have to take into account the alcoholic steatohepatitis which inhibited his liver but, on the balance of probabilities, his death was a result of a combination of drug and alcohol use and therefore that caused his death." 

Mr Short concluded by addressing Mr Cameron’s family.

He said: “Although his death was not completely unexpected, I am sure it was a great shock and I would like to give my sympathy.”