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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

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Heroin did not kill Cumbria rugby player - inquest

A talented rugby player who died after a drug dealer injected him with heroin was not killed by the drug, but by an undetected lung condition, a coroner has ruled.

Ashley Macdonald photo
Ashley Macdonald

Ashley Macdonald was found dead in a flat at Victoria Terrace, Whitehaven, in January.

The 21-year-old father-of-one had been injected with heroin – with his consent – by George Thomas Carr after going back to Carr’s flat following a drinking session.

Carr was originally charged with administering poison, but the charge was dropped when it was established that the drug played no part in Mr Macdonald’s death.

He was jailed for three years in May.

In an inquest into Mr Macdonald’s death at Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court yesterday, North and West Cumbria Coroner David Roberts confirmed that it was an extremely rare and undetected lung condition that had killed Mr Macdonald, not heroin.

Recording a verdict of natural causes, Mr Roberts said: “I am entirely satisfied that whatever else happened did not contribute or accelerate his death in any way.

“It was a desperate tragedy for all of his family and for his little daughter that he was taken from them by this natural, but highly unusual, health condition.”

The inquest heard Mr Macdonald, a Kells RL player who had toured Australia with the Great Britain amateur rugby league squad, had complained of a tight chest and difficulty breathing in the days before his death.

However, he had been an apparently fit and extremely active man who played both codes of rugby as well as cricket for Whitehaven Cricket Club and trained and worked out regularly.

His father described how Mr Macdonald had left the family home at Richmond Terrace, Whitehaven, to go out with friends on January 26.

After a drinking session, during which they took drugs, Mr Macdonald and friends Grant Dixon and Nathan Mann agreed to go back to Carr’s flat.

There, Carr injected all three, and himself, with heroin.

Mr Macdonald slumped on to a bed immediately, but this did not kill him, the hearing was told.

His lifeless body was discovered at 8.30am the next morning.

Police at first suspected the heroin had killed him, but tests by Home Office pathologist Alison Armer found “widespread” bleeding in his lungs that could not have been caused by the drug.

Although quantities of heroin, alcohol and diazepam were found in Mr Macdonald’s system, Ms Armer reported that these substances did not cause his death.

Instead, she said, Mr Macdonald had died from a “highly unusual” and undetected lung condition, which was consistent with the symptoms he had experienced in previous days.

In her opinion, and that of two other doctors she consulted, Mr Macdonald would have died even if he had not been injected with heroin on that night.

Mr Macdonald, a former St Benedict’s School pupil, had celebrated his 21st birthday just a week before his death.

He worked as a bricklayer in his father’s business after training at Lakes College, Lillyhall, and had a daughter, who is now three.

Though he did not live with his daughter he was described as a devoted dad.


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