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2:01pm Wednesday 15th August 2012
by Sarah Taylor
A TEWKESBURY man took an ‘impulsive and misguided’ fatal overdose of anti-depressant drugs during a heavy drinking session, an inquest in Gloucester heard.
Father-of-three Malcolm Averiss had a history of anxiety, depression, overdosing, drinking and anti-social behaviour that started with the death of his mother and aunt within a few days of each other in 2002.
Gloucestershire deputy coroner David Dooley said it was a “sad case” and recorded an accidental death verdict.
The 55-year-old, of The Park, Northway, was found dead on the landing of his home on May 5 this year. He had died from the toxic effects of an overdose of anti-depressants and alcohol.
Police found empty vodka bottles and empty packets of anti-depressant drugs in the house.
In a statement, his wife Diane said her husband was badly affected by the double bereavement and he increased his alcohol intake. This, she said, had a dramatic effect of his mental state, causing him more anxiety and stress.
He had lost his job when he turned up for work with the smell of alcohol on his breath but he had continued to look for work right up until he died, and on May 3, he had renewed his car tax.
Mrs Averiss said her husband had always appeared smart, clean and sober when he engaged with the Independence Trust and he was able to mask his underlying distress, something he could not do when he was drunk.
It was not unknown, she said, for her husband to take more of his prescribed anti-depressant medication as he said it helped him to sleep. Mrs Averiss said she thought the fatal overdose was an impulsive and irrational act of which he was unaware of the consequences.
His GP, Dr Simon Fearn, said Mr Averiss had been diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and a delayed grief reaction in 2002.
The following year, he was treated for drug induced mania and from 2004 to 2008, he was offered a number of appointments with mental health professionals but he failed to take advantage of the help on offer.
In March 2011, he was removed from the accident unit at Cheltenham General Hospital by police and security staff when he threatens to harm himself. Dr Fearn said Mr Averiss blamed LSD use as a young man for his mental health problems.
Later that year in September his brother died and two months later he was convicted of assault and later loses his job.
In a statement, Beverley Poulson of the Independence Trust, Gloucestershire’s mental health, drug and alcohol service, said Mr Averiss was adamant he was not a heavy drinker when he met counsellors on March 1 and the following month, he insisted he was controlling his drinking and felt calmer.
On May 2, he threatened to kill himself unless he received help. The mental health crisis team were unable to help, said Ms Poulson, so someone from the trust spoke to him and was able to calm him down.
This pattern was repeated the following day, she said.
Analysis of samples taken at a post mortem examination showed the level of alcohol in his blood was 234mg per decilitre – almost three times the legal drink drive limit.
A reading of 354mg of alcohol per decilitre of urine indicated a long drinking session had taken place, said forensic toxicologist Mark Tyler.
There was 3.8mg of anti-depressant drug citalopram per decilitre of blood – fatalities can occur at levels of 1.5mg and above.
Pathologist Dr Linmarie Ludeman gave the cause of death as due to the toxic effects of alcohol and citalopram.
Mr Dooley said this was a sad case of a 55-year-old family man with a history of anxiety, occasional overdosing, aggression, and some anti-social behaviour.
“He appears to have been offered help by his family, his GP, the police and the Independence Trust. But he’s only ever accepted a limited amount of that support,” Mr Dooley said.
“The evidence suggests to me he was somebody who demanded help but he would only accept it on his own terms.”
There was a history, Mr Dooley said, of Mr Averiss taking excessive medication in the belief that they would act more quickly and make him sleep more easily.
Mr Dooley said he could not be sure that Mr Averiss had the settled intent to take his own life, despite his previous threats to kill himself. No suicide note was found.
It was more likely than not that this was an accidental death caused by an impulsive and misguided taking of prescribed medication during a prolonged period of drinking, he said.
The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.