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Respected policeman dies of massive drug overdose, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 17:42 06 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 07 September 2010

A committed and active police officer died from a massive heroin overdose, an inquest heard today (Thursday). PC David Pilling, 47, who was renowned for his work in tackling drug dealers in Camden, collapsed in his flat on March 26, this year. Today s i

A 'committed and active' police officer died from a massive heroin overdose, an inquest heard today (Thursday).

PC David Pilling, 47, who was renowned for his work in tackling drug dealers in Camden, collapsed in his flat on March 26, this year.

Today's inquest heard how worried colleagues visited his Cumberland Market flat after he had failed to turn up for work that morning. After forcing entry at around 3.30pm they found him slumped across a TV stand in his living room.

On a table next to him were various items of drug paraphernalia including a Stanley knife, traces of heroin and an uncapped syringe with the plunger down, which is believed to have contained the fatal dose.

Toxicology reports on PC Pilling revealed that his blood contained levels of heroin more than four times the amount normally associated with fatal overdoses.

Although the reports suggested he had taken heroin up to three months before his death coroner Andrew Reid rejected the idea the much loved and respected policeman was an addict or that he had intentionally taken his own life.

Speaking at the inquest at St Pancras Coroners' court he said: "There is no evidence that he was addicted to this drug but clearly it was not the first time he had ever used opiate drugs [heroin].

"In addition, [although] he did not turn up for work or not let his friends and colleagues know his whereabouts, I am satisfied an act of self harm is out of character.

"The circumstantial evidence and the medical evidence satisfies me that on the balance of probabilities PC Pilling accidentally took a heroin overdose at a level to which he was not tolerant."

Det Insp Paul Clack, from the Community Safety Unit had the difficult task of heading the investigation into PC Pilling's death.

As part of the probe he checked PC Pilling's computer and found that in the hours before his death he had visited various websites, which contained information on the drug heroin, its risks, and how to inject it.

Speaking after the inquest Det Insp Clack said the web pages visited by PC Pilling suggest he may have been in unknown territory when injecting the drug.

He said: "That suggests very much to me that we are talking about a relatively recent thing here and quite possibly in terms of injecting heroin it may well have been the first time.

"PC Pilling was a very active and committed police officer who was a tragic victim of drug abuse. It is a terrible tragedy for his family friends and colleagues."

The sudden death of the popular officer was a shock to friends and colleagues who had known him for his all-action style of policing, which earned him the nickname 'Robocop' during his 13 years with Camden police.

DI Clack continued: "When it became apparent as to what had happened everyone was shocked.

"There was nothing from family, friends or colleagues to suggest this was an individual who had a drug problem."

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Ben McPartland


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