Drugs death man was 'desperate to change', inquest hears

Muriel Matters House
Muriel Matters House

A man who died of a drugs overdose in Hastings whilst wanted for recall to prison was "desperate to change", an inquest heard today (Friday).

A former furniture removal man, 25-year-old Lloyd Emmamuel Francis was found dead at an address in Harold Road on New Years Day 2017.

A jury inquest, which was held at Muriel Matters House this morning, concluded that his death was as a result of the dependent use of drugs.

During the inquest the jury heard that Francis was a long-term drug user who had served a prolonged series of short prison sentences. He had been wanted on recall to prison at the time of his death having been released in December last year from HMP Elmley in Kent.

Giving evidence in a written statement on behalf of his family, mother Natalie Abel said they believed his drugs problem had began while he was serving his first prison sentence some years earlier. They said he was "desperate to change."

Mrs Abel said the family believed Francis was sincere in his attempts to stay away from drugs but that the "failings of individuals and institutions... had contributed to the backwards steps that led to his death." The family criticised the prison service due to its "failure" to offer rehabilitation services as well as the availability of drugs - saying Francis had found it easier to find drugs behind bars than on the outside.

They also raised specific concerns about the conditions in HMP Elmley saying Francis had allegedly been assaulted by a group of inmates despite having raised concerns about his safety with staff. They said he had to be treated at a specialist facility in East Grinstead and was unable to access drugs rehabilitation services as a result.

The family told the jury how Francis had been "positive and happy" on his release from prison but had become "despondant" after learning he was wanted on recall for breaching the terms of his licence. The inquest heard he had breached the licence terms by not staying in a room at the Grand Hotel in St Leonards where he was registered with the probation service.

His girlfriend Michaela Dowling told the inquest the breach had occurred as he did not have a key to the outside doors and was unable to gain access. Miss Dowling said he was trying to enter the hotel before his curfew and had attempted to get a response from hotel staff for more than 15 minutes before deciding to stay the night at her home in Eastbourne.

She said that he had tried to explain the circumstances to his probation officer but that a decision to recall him to prison had already been made .

Both Mrs Able and Miss Dowling said he had complained about his probation officer before his death and had requested to work with another. The inquest also heard that he raised concerns about being placed in the Grand Hotel as the area "is renowned for drugs use." His mother and girlfriend both said they felt the system was "setting him up to fail."

On the night of his death, Francis and Miss Dowling had been staying at the home of Kirsty Begley in Harold Road. They had been drinking and watched the New Year celebrations on television with Ms Begley. Miss Dowling said they turned in for bed at around 2am but that Francis had smoked something "she had never smelt before" before they went to sleep. She said she had thought it may have been heroin and had become "very upset" that night.

She woke the next morning at around 10.30am and discovered Francis had died during the night.

Miss Dowling said Francis would hide the extent of his drugs use from her and that she did not suspect he had been using heroin until the night of his death. On reflection, she said, she believed he had been taking drugs for a period of more than a week before his death. She said she did not believe he had been taking drugs in the first week of his release from prison.

The inquest also heard from pathologist Dr Mark Taylor who had conducted a postmortem which showed signs he had smoked heroin and crack-cocaine. There were no signs he had injected the drugs, Dr Taylor said. He concluded the cause of death was as a result of drugs overdose.

The jury returned a verdict of death by dependent use of drugs.