Hampstead insulin death was accidental
PUBLISHED: 17:32 11 March 2011
THE death of a man found on Hampstead Heath last summer has been ruled accidental by a coroner, despite his family’s belief that he was attempting suicide.
Ben Mellor-Calvert, 44, was found dead on July 9 near Sandy Road in Golders Hill Park, two days after going missing and just a week after he had celebrated a civil partnership, Barnet Coroners’ Court heard on Thursday.
Despite having up to 20 insulin pens with him – nine of which are believed to have been emptied – and a history of attempting suicide in this way, glucose expert Frank Tames said tests on Mr Mellor-Calvert showed evidence of only up to four, but more likely one or two, being injected.
Though questions were raised as to how the freelance composer had obtained so much insulin, Mr Tames said Mr Mellor-Calvert’s death was therefore probably not the result of an overdose, which would require more than 10 pens, but of being a poorly-controlled diabetic who was too rapidly attempting to correct the symptoms of high-glucose levels.
He said that in most cases, this number of insulin pens would not result in death, but that sometimes when glucose levels are lowered too rapidly an arrhythmia could occur and stop the heart and all the tests he had conducted indicated this was the case with Mr Mellor-Calvert.
Pathologist Professor Sebastian Lucas told the inquest he now believed part of his report into Mr Mellor-Calvert’s cause of death was wrong and instead agreed with Mr Tames’ findings, claiming it was in line with what is termed “diabetic dead-in-bed syndrome”.
Giving evidence, his partner Jon Edwards said he had last seen Mr Mellor-Calvert two days before he was found.
“He’d had something to drink. He got up off the sofa, tousled the dog and said ‘sorry’ to me and walked out of the flat,” he said. “I assumed he was apologising for drinking and that he had gone for a cigarette.”
However, when Mr Edwards looked for him in the garden later he was gone.
“I believe he killed himself,” said Mr Edwards. “The guy was found in a park, surrounded by nine dispensed pens of insulin and he said sorry to me when he left and he’d had a history of suicide attempts over the last 10 years.”
He explained how Mr Mellor-Calvert had been hospitalised in 2009 for a failed suicide attempt when he had injected two pens and had been left in a coma for several days.
He later added: “He didn’t just go for a lie down with all that insulin and I think it’s important we recognise he attempted to take his own life.”
But coroner Andrew Walker said the amount of insulin found was “irrelevant” likening the scenario to someone intending to take their own life, but being hit by a bus on the way.
During evidence from Jacque Maurice of the Riverside Medical Practice in Shrewsbury, the court heard how Mr Mellor Calvert had obtained two boxes of five pens – each enough for several months – within two days of each other in March by telling two doctors he required extra doses as he was nervous about finding a GP he could trust when he moved to London.
Closing the inquest and ruling Mr Mellor-Calvert’s death as accidental, coroner Mr Walker said: “Sometimes it’s not difficult to reach the conclusion that a person intended to die. But looking at the evidence we have there is not really any evidence of that at all.”
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