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The Wigan Post
By Rachel Howarth
Published: 11:21 Friday 15 December 2017
Bolton Coroner’s Court
Mystery surrounds the death of a Wigan postman who died from taking prescription medication almost 20 years after a serious holiday accident left him in chronic pain. An inquest into the death of Ian McLoughlin, 43, heard how the “family man” had been taking opioid painkiller Tramadol and Sertraline, a popular antidepressant, for years leading up to his death.
The hearing at Bolton Coroners’ Court, was thrown into confusion after evidence failed to explain how such high levels of each drug had ended up in his system. Jennifer Leeming, senior coroner for Manchester West, heard a combined statement from Mr McLoughlin’s mum Mary and his three siblings, Philip, Anthony and Julie-Ann. Ms Leeming also took evidence from pathologist Dr David Barker and Dr Rachael Dykes, a partner at Bradshaw Medical Centre, to determine the cause of his death. Ms Leeming read out the family’s statement, saying: “Around 20 years ago during a holiday abroad he suffered serious neck and head injuries when he slipped and fell from some height, striking his head on the side of the pool. “He sustained life-threatening injuries and was fortunate not to have been killed. “He suffered from pain in his neck and needed to take pain relief. More recently, in the past 18 months, he needed to have two operations in his neck.”
The family explained how the Pemberton postman, who lived on Loch Street, had been a “skilled man” who was looking forward to doing up his garden and building a pond. The court heard how, on the day before his death in early August, Mr McLoughlin had been unable to make it into work due to crippling pain in his neck which left him bed bound. He had been visited by his brother, Anthony, who suggested that he try to contact work.
Despite his rapid onset of pain, Mr McLoughlin had planned to go to work the following morning. It was only when his mother, Mary, arrived early in the morning to check on her son and bring him some sandwiches for work, that she found him lying unresponsive on his bed. A post-mortem examination revealed fatally high doses of both Tramadol and Sertraline, the toxicology report showing 5.1mg of Sertraline in his system at the time of his death. The antidepressant can be fatal at 0.5mg per litre. Tramadol was found in his blood, with 52mg compared to the average 1mg usually found at therapeutic level. However, an investigation conducted by police coroner, Neil McCaffrey, revealed that there was “no evidence” to show that Mr McLoughlin intended to take his own life.
Evidence from the family supported this as they said Mr McLoughlin had never mentioned taking his own life. Blister packs found in the downstairs cupboard, well out of reach of Mr McLoughlin when he died, showed no evidence of overdose and all of the medicine was accounted for. Dr Dykes referred to him as a “compliant patient” who had no history of over using the drugs which he had been prescribed for at least five years. Ms Leeming said. “It is unclear how this came about.