Man who choked on his own vomit: open verdict

An unemployed builder died from choking on his vomit after drinking - despite not drinking enough to warrant sickness.

Mark Richard Dellarocca, 30, of Crowborough Road, had only the equivalent of twice the drink-drive limit of alcohol in his blood when he died on August 21, 2007, and normal levels of the anti-depressants he was taking, an inquest heard.

The report from toxicologist Andrew Smith concerned coroner Alan Craze, who said he feared that something may have been missed.

Hastings coroners court was told that Mr Dellarocca had a history of depression and alcohol abuse, and had attempted suicide in March 2007.

A report from his GP, Francis Howey, stated that Mr Dellarocca was last seen at the surgery on July 24, where he seemed "more positive" after an appointment in early July when he said he was having suicidal thoughts.

Mr Dellarocca's wife Carmel, told the court: "For over 10 years Mark had a drink problem, which takes the form of binge drinking. Sometimes he would disappear for days, but he hadn't done that for a while.

"The family were staying in London. Three-four weeks before his death he decided to go back to Hastings to do some decorating.

"On August 21 he phoned in the morning to speak to the kids, and I didn't hear anything from him for a little while. He phoned at 6pm and I could tell he had been drinking. Them about 5-10 minutes after I got a text message saying, goodbye, I love you."

The court heard that Mrs Dellarocca called her husband's friend Chris Eldridge, who he had been drinking with earlier in the day, and her husband's father, Gordon, who made his way by train from London to Hastings.

Mr Eldridge said: "I went around there and found the door was locked. The dog was making a lot of noise, and when I rang his mobile I could hear it ringing inside."

A neighbour called 999, the court heard, and the fire service gained entry later that evening. Mr Eldridge discovered Mr Dellarocca face-up in a crucifiction position with vomit on his face.

Recording an open verdict, Mr Craze said: "This verdict is not a cop-out, it's simply a recognition of an absence of the full evidence."