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Coroner tells mother: We will never know how your son died
7:00am Saturday 15th September 2012 in News
Mystery still surrounds the death of a man who had his car and possessions stolen after a night out at a gay pub, an inquest has heard.
Bradford Coroner Peter Straker said there were two possible explanations for 33-year-old Robert Lennon’s death at his home in Wyke – unlawful killing or suicide but there was no evidence to prove either.
The hearing was told that Mr Lennon had been in good spirits drinking at home with neighbours before going out and visiting The Sun pub in Bradford city centre on January 27 this year.
CCTV footage showed him leaving the pub later that night with a man – later identified as drug addict Michael Conserdine.
During the police investigation a woman called Catriona Ratcliffe got in touch saying Mr Conserdine, who she knew from The Bridge drugs project, had come to her house at about 5.30am on Saturday, January 28, in a blue small car – now known to be Mr Lennon’s – telling her he had got it from some man he had met in The Sun and then drugged with enough tablets to knock him out for a week so he could steal from him.
She told detectives he had shown her the man’s wallet and was wearing his white trainers. He then left saying he had left the man’s door open so he could go back and get the television.
But when Mr Conserdine came back he was without the car saying he had scrapped it for £130 and had not been able to get back into the house because the door had been locked.
When later questioned by detectives, Detective Inspector Steve Snow giving evidence, said Conserdine, who is in custody in Armley jail awaiting trial on charges of stealing Mr Lennon’s car and other possessions as well as on other unconnected charges, denied it all.
The inquest heard there was CCTV footage showing Mr Lennon’s car being driven on Saturday morning near the woman’s house – although Conserdine had told police he had run there bare foot to get away from Mr Lennon’s advances.
Mr Lennon had been found curled up on his sofa as if asleep by his aunt who had gone to check on him at his home in Wilson Road after noticing his blinds were still down.
Toxicology tests showed he had almost double a fatal dose of his prescribed anxiety medication Citolopran – there were no signs of any of the other drugs that Conserdine had allegedly told the woman he had given him.
A post-mortem examination found Mr Lennon had stopped breathing after breathing in gastric contents exacerbated by the overdose of medication in his system and having drunk the equivalent of seven pints of beer.
Det Insp Snow said police had not found any other evidence to support any rationale for Mr Lennon’s death other than the toxicologist and pathologist’s reasons.
Recording an open verdict, Mr Straker spoke of “inconsistencies” and “difficult evidence”.
He said: “What we do know is from the toxicolgist that there was very high level of Citolopram in Robert’s blood.
“What happened on the night or even the morning we cannot be definite on the evidence we have. The matter that has my greatest concern is the hearsay evidence that Mr Conserdine drugged Mr Lennon.”
He added: “The question in my mind was, was Citolopran taken thinking it was Ketamin? We will never know.”
He told Mr Lennon’s mother, Elizabeth, who cried during the hearing clutching a photo of her son: “There are two possible explanations, simply either that Mr Conserdine somehow managed to get a fatal level into the blood of Mr Lennon but we have no idea how he would have done it. If that was the case it would be unlawful killing but I don’t have the evidence to return that.
“Another verdict that could be considered if we felt that it was Mr lennon who voluntarily took this medication would have to be suicide but I only mention that to disregard it.
“We don’t know if it’s unlawful killing or suicide although I think we know it wasn’t suicide. Was it an accident thinking it was ketamin? I say we leave the verdict open.”