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Mother’s warning over high-strength painkillers after lawyer’s fatal fall in Camden Town

William Chapman-Purchas (right) William Chapman-Purchas (right)

Friday, August 8, 2014
7:00 AM

The mother of a lawyer who plunged to his death from a Camden Town balcony believes the effects of heroin-like painkillers were to blame for his fall.

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William Chapman-Purchas fell from five storeys up at the Lockhouse flats in Oval Road, Camden Town. Picture: Nigel SuttonWilliam Chapman-Purchas fell from five storeys up at the Lockhouse flats in Oval Road, Camden Town. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Fiona Ligonnet this week warned others to be wary of oxycodone, a high-strength painkiller similar to heroin and morphine, which she suspects contributed to the tragic death of her son William Chapman-Purchas in the early hours of Friday, April 25.

Her comments come after a coroner recorded an open verdict at an inquest last week – but said it was possible that the prescription drug played a part.

The solicitor and property developer, 42, began taking oxycodone just two days before he fell from his mother’s fifth-storey balcony in Oval Road.

She was the first to discover his lifeless body after waking and realising he was not in the flat, yet the front door was chained from the inside.

Although they will never know for certain, the family believe the drugs probably made him disorientated or even caused hallucinations, leading to him going over the edge.

Ms Ligonnet, 73, a retired archaeologist, told the Ham&High: “I feel that these very strong painkillers are doled out a bit too liberally.

“They can have side effects such as drowsiness and disorientation and that’s the only explanation for him falling from the balcony.

“I do think they should only be prescribed under greater supervision.”

Mr Chapman-Purchas, who grew up in Arlington Road, Camden Town, had been prescribed oxycodone and the antidepressant amitriptyline by a private doctor for agonising pain he was suffering due to a severe wrist injury.

He lived in Edinburgh with his wife and four-year-old son, but had been staying in his mother’s living room – which opened out to the balcony – while recovering from an operation on his wrist, which was too delicate to risk a knock on the journey back to Scotland.

The former pupil of St Paul’s Primary School, Elsworthy Road, Primrose Hill, suffered the injury when a pair of tree loppers snapped while gardening.

Despite his physical torment, Mary Hassell, senior coroner for inner north London, told St Pancras Coroner’s Court that she considered it extremely unlikely that he deliberately jumped from the balcony.

She said the drugs could have been to blame, but that there was not enough evidence to reach any definite conclusion.

His mother said: “William had everything to live for. He had a wife he loved dearly, he had a son that he absolutely adored, and he spoke to them at least three times a day while he was staying with me.

“There is no other explanation, to my mind, other than he reacted in some way to the combination of the drugs.

“If anyone is prescribed oxycodone on its own or with amitriptyline, they should think very, very carefully about whether there is an alternative, or make sure that they’re very carefully supervised when they first start taking it.

“Had the doctor said he may wake up and be disorientated, I probably would have made sure the balcony was locked.”

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