Hotel worker died after swallowing bags of cocaine, inquest told

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Friars Cliff
Police at the scene at Friars Cliff, Christchurch, in April 2019

MYSTERY surrounds why a hotel worker found dead on a beach had swallowed bags of cocaine.

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The body of Raul-Marcel Nicoara (26) was discovered fully clothed close to a groyne on the beach at Friars Cliff, Christchurch, just before 6.30am on 16th April 2019, Bournemouth Coroners’ Court heard.

It was spotted by a local resident out with his dog and he alerted the police.

Det. Insp. Mark Jenkins said officers found a broken wine bottle nearby, and a search of the deceased’s pockets unearthed a mobile phone and a dry tissue.

Although Mr Nicoara’s jacket was wet, his clothes underneath were dry. The phone in his pocket still worked and data was retrieved from it.

DI Jenkins said the state of the jacket could be explained by the “light rain” that fell overnight and it was not believed Mr Nicoara had been submerged beneath water or in the sea.

Friars Cliff
A tent was erected as police investigated the body

A post-mortem carried out by pathologist Andre Kulla discovered six bags containing white power in the deceased’s oesophagus and a further two in his stomach. Toxicology tests determined Mr Nicoara had fatal levels of cocaine in his blood.

DI Jenkins said Mr Nicoara worked at a nearby Christchurch hotel, and a search of his accommodation revealed a second phone which had not been used for some time.

Investigations of the phones suggested Mr Nicoara may have used drugs recreationally, but there was no evidence that he dealt in them. There were no external injuries on the deceased, signs of a struggle or evidence of a third party involved, the officer stressed.

Bank records did not indicate Mr Nicoara was in debt or had withdrawn large sums of money, and police struggled to trace his movements in the days or the night before his death.

Asked by coroner Brendan Allen about the drugs found in the deceased’s system, DI Jenkins said the evidence was that he swallowed them voluntarily.

“This does not seem to be a way of transporting or concealing drugs for another use,” the DI said. “I am unable to explain or identify a reason why he may have done so.”

Summing up, the coroner said it was “difficult to make findings” as there were “a lot of unanswered questions” surrounding the death.

He gave a conclusion of a drug-related death, deciding Mr Nicoara had not been submerged in the sea. The deceased was likely a recreational drug user, but there was no evidence he was forced to take the cocaine or signs of injury, he added.

Mr Nicoara swallowed the cocaine prior to his death, but the post-mortem did not explain how and why, Mr Allen said, adding: “It’s a question I cannot answer as I have no evidence to assist me.

“There was no evidence he was forced to swallow the bags,” he continued, nor was their evidence of an assault. “Whatever the reason for it, he swallowed those bags voluntarily,” he added.

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