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Cocktail of drugs claimed life of 25 year old father

Deceased had been crunching tablets in his mouth, inquest hears

By Paul Ainsworth

A young father of two who died after taking a cocktail of drugs including heroin was a regular user of drugs and a heavy drinker, his inquest heard this week. Paul Anthony Arbuckle was 25 when he died at a flat in the university area in April 2008, having injected heroin with a friend as well as ingesting codeine, diazepam and lorazepam.

The Coroner’s Court this week said there was no evidence the Jerusalem Street resident had overdosed deliberately, but heard how he was a regular user of prescription drugs, nicknamed ‘blues’ and ‘yellows’. The inquest heard he had a history of drug problems and had overdosed in 2002 but had completed a detox programme in 2006.

Paul, who had previously been charged with the attempted murder of an off-duty police officer had also been a heavy drinker, according to his doctor, and was concerned having received death threats.

It was also described how his friend Colin O’Brian, who had given him drugs on the evening and who has since died, tried to resuscitate Paul for up to 45 minutes before seeking help from a nearby residential warden.

The pair had been out together the previous evening. The court heard from Paul’s partner Ciara Lagan, whose statement said he seemed “spaced out” after coming back with O’Brian to their Jerusalem Street home late in the evening with diazepam pills.

“I heard Paul crunching the tablets in his mouth and I tried to grab a strip of tablets from his pocket,” she said. She also said O’Brian had coaxed her to try some of the pills but she had refused.

The pair then left with Paul claiming he was walking his friend home. They went to O’Brian’s flat in University Street, where more drugs were taken, including heroin.

“I knew he took blues but I didn’t know he would have taken heroin,” his partner added.

James Taggart, a residential warden for the block of flats where O’Brian lived, was alerted to the situation in the early hours by a rap on the window, and looked out to see O’Brian who told him: “You better come up here Jim, I think Arbuckle is dead.”

He explained how he rang for an ambulance after seeing Paul lying on the floor of O’Brian’s flat, unresponsive and with his face “swollen”. He too attempted CPR but to no avail.

Paramedics later pronounced Paul dead after 6am. The court was told how O’Brian had initially admitted to owning the heroin but had then tried to claim he had acquired it from a person in the street as they walked home.

A PSNI constable who attended the scene said he spoke with O’Brian who told him: “We were both taking drugs – tabs, blues, yellows and diazepam.” The officer went on to describe how O’Brian said they “cooked up” heroin together before injecting it.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson called upon Paul’s GP Dr Heron, who told the inquest his patient had been on anti-depressants for his “low mood” and had complained of alcohol problems.

Concluding the hearing, Ms Anderson said heroin, codeine, diazepam and lorazepam had caused Paul’s death, offering sympathy to his family.


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