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Bereaved family's anger over hostel drug use

But coroner speaks out on staff's behalf

John Garvey

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John Garvey

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RELATIVES of a man who died at a Newbury hostel have lambasted the perceived drug culture there.

An inquest into the death of Thomas Wilson Noble, found dead in another resident’s room at the Two Saints facility in Newtown Road, heard claims of an illegal substances free-for-all.

Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford reminded critics, however, that staff had no power to search rooms and that one of the only sanctions available to them was eviction.

The hearing in Reading Town Hall on Wednesday, November 9, was told that 50-year-old Mr Noble, known as Jock, was preyed upon by some of the other residents who would take his money.

The night before he died, the inquest was told, Mr Noble had been sharing beers with Steve Pitt in the latter’s room.

Mr Pitt said: “He wanted me to walk him to the post office next day so people wouldn’t harass him for his money.”

He described placing a blanket over Mr Noble when he fell asleep in the chair.

Another resident, Julian Boswell, described going into Mr Pitt’s room the following morning and finding Mr Noble unresponsive.

The alarm was raised, but paramedics were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead soon after 9am on April 29.

Police found traces of white powder, syringes and other drug paraphernalia in Mr Pitt’s room, but he insisted he had not seen Mr Noble take drugs that night.

Nevertheless, said Mr Bedford, post mortem tests revealed morphine, the heroin substitute methadone and benzodiazepenes in his system, alongside alcohol.

He remarked on the number of people who had been in and out of Mr Pitt’s room that night, adding: “Paul Fee, Peter Kelly, Dale Heywood are among those who seemed to have come and gone.”

One member of Mr Noble’s family interjected: “It’s a drug house. They all feed off each other. When I went there it’s like they’re running the hostel.”

Others expressed concern that hostel staff had not found the drugs paraphernalia in Mr Pitt’s room.

A service leader at the hostel, Samantha Headland, said: “We don’t condone drug use.”

She explained that staff had no power to search residents’ private property, adding: “That’s a job for the police.”

Mr Bedford told the family that staff encouraged drug users to reduce their consumption, but added that they were understandably reluctant to impose the only sanction available to them – eviction.

Police found no evidence of foul play.

Mr Bedford said that tests had also shown that Mr Noble had been suffering from bronchio-pneumonia and that all the drugs he had taken, including alcohol, were central nervous system, and respiratory, depressants.

Their individual effects were enhanced in combination, he added.

Mr Bedford concluded that Mr Noble “died a drug-related death in association with an existing medical illness, bronchio-pneumonia”.

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