Police investigating Andrew Burden's death in Cirencester criticised after failing to speak to witnesses
6:00am Thursday 7th March 2013 in News
DETECTIVES have been criticised by a coroner for failing to investigate the death of a Cirencester man.
David Dooley, deputy coroner for Gloucestershire, raised the concerns during the inquest into the death of Andrew Burden who was found slumped in a chair at his home in Lavender Lane on May 4 last year. He was taken Swindon's Great Western Hospital but failed to regain consciousness and died six days later.
A post mortem found a lethal cocktail of heroin and alcohol in his bloodstream which had caused Mr Bruden to stop breathing.
Mr Dooley said he was concerned that the Wiltshire detectives investigating the death had not interviewed two men who were with Mr Burden at the time.
The 38-year-old had a long history of heroin and alcohol abuse the inquest had heard.
But two men who were with him at the time of his death did not appear at the inquest. Angus Mead had been summoned to appear at the inquest but failed to attend and officers had been unable to trace the second man, known only as Chris.
"I am going to give a verdict of accidental death, on the balance of probabilities, irrespective of my concerns about the lack of police inquiry in this matter."Gloucestershire deputy coroner David Dooley
PC Melanie Mellues, of Wiltshire Police, said she had tried to locate the man known as Chris but said his flat had appeared as if no one lived there.
Her efforts to speak to Mr Mead had also proved futile she said. She was later told the case would be taken on by Gloucestershire Police.
The police officer said Mr Burden's flat had been searched on May 10. Capped needles were found in a drawer and a suspected tournique but the flat had been tidied and there were no signs of a disturbance.
Mr Burden’s doctor confirmed that he had battled a 20-year history of alcoholism and was a previous opiate addict.
His mother Linda had said she was close to her son and had spoken to him the day before his death. "The last nine months of his life were the best because had stopped taking heroin and was making efforts to deal with his alcohol," she added.
Gloucestershire deputy coroner David Dooley said there had been "a poor level of investigation in this case" but that Mr Burden had probably inadvertently taken too much heroin and alcohol.
"We are not able to establish whether there had been any suspicious or third party involvement," Mr Dooley said. "I am going to give a verdict of accidental death, on the balance of probabilities, irrespective of my concerns about the lack of police inquiry in this matter."