A YOUNG man born at a New Age traveller camp started smoking when he was just nine, used cannabis at 10 and was hooked on heroin and cocaine in his teens, an inquest heard.
Gino Rowson battled with drug addiction and mental health problems for most of his life before being found dead of an overdose at the age of 22.
He had moved to Greenfields Farm in North Gorley, Fordingbridge, just a few months before his death to live with family friends in an effort to kick his drug habit.
But unknown to them he had continued to obtain hard drugs from the so-called dark web – hard-to-reach, encrypted websites.
On 24th April this year Gino was found dead in bed in a caravan he lived in at the farm. A bag of brown powder and a glass drugs pipe was found near his body.
A post-mortem examination found that he had died as a result of taking an overdose of heroin and cocaine.
At Winchester Coroner’s Court, his mother Gillian Rowson sobbed as she told how her son had suffered from severe anxiety and had used drugs to help him cope.
Ms Rowson, who last saw her son on his birthday just weeks before his death, said: “The way he felt inside himself, it was really, really, difficult to be here. Every single day he found it painful.
“He wanted to stay here but he would get to the point where inside himself that feeling would crash and fall away.”
Referring to her son’s overdose she added: “I think what he did was really brave because he worked really hard to be here.
“He had a profound lack of confidence even though he was very loved by everyone who got to know him, he was a very lovely person. The unfortunate part of that was that he wasn’t able to feel that in himself.”
Coroner Grahame Short heard how Gino was born at a New Age traveller camp in Breaca Fields, in Wales, on 2nd April 1997.
Around 18 months before his death he had moved to Fordingbridge to work for family friend Andrew Harris and his wife Tanya who run a tree surgery business.
Gino also worked at a garden centre in Ringwood. In a statement Mr Harris told how he was aware of Gino’s drugs habit and that he and his wife had tried help him come off them.
Talking about how he had known Gino since he was a child, he said: “He came to Fordingbridge from Wiltshire where he was living in October 2016 to get a fresh start, to get him away from the culture he was in.
“He was doing well but I was aware he was still doing drugs.
“He moved into the caravan in December so he could be more under our supervision.”
On 23rd March he had seen Gino in the yard during the day. He became worried the next morning because Gino was due at the garden centre but by 9am there was no sign of him.
He knocked on his door and when there was no answer went inside. Mr Harris said he saw Gino lying in bed “frothing at the mouth”. His body was cold and stiff and Mr Harris could not find a pulse. Police arrived and Gino was certified dead at the scene.
A post-mortem examination revealed he had a very high level of morphine, derived from heroin, and cocaine in his blood. The drugs had been smoked not injected.
There was also evidence that in the months before his death he had also smoked cannabis and taken ketamine.
In January this year Gino had been referred by a psychiatrist to West Hampshire’s NHS early intervention team.
He was seen at Waterford House in New Milton on 19th January. A statement from staff there described him as being “socially isolated” and worried about being £2,500 in debt due to most of his money having gone on buying drugs from the dark web.
He told them how he started smoking at nine and was using cannabis at 10. He was taking hard core drugs by his mid-teens and by 19 was on heroin, cocaine, ketamine and methadone.
Gino told staff he would “binge use drugs” when he felt down but was desperate to stop using them. He had also started hearing voices inside his head and was having suicidal thoughts although he said he would not act on them.
A plan was arranged with Gino where he would be given low doses of an anti-psychotic medicine and would see a psychiatrist.
He attended a second appointment but failed to turn up for anymore, and efforts to raise him on his phone failed. He had been rated as a moderate risk for suicide and as he was not engaging with the team he was discharged from their care.
During her evidence Gino’s mother said she felt that the reports and statements read out at the inquest did not give a true picture of her son.
She said: “He would not necessarily agree with things that have been said about him in this place. He had a group of close friends.
“After he died a bench was put up in the garden centre with his name on it. He was settled there, he had built a life in Fordingbridge and he was really loved there.”
Coroner Mr Short concluded that Gino died as a result of a drugs overdose but there was no evidence to suggest he intended to commit suicide.
He said: “He had ambitions and lots to live for with friends and family supporting him. I’m afraid the physical effects of the drugs was too much for him.”