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Drug addict took his life at girlfriend's home

The coroner's court at Winchester
The coroner's court at Winchester

A RINGWOOD man who had a long-standing addiction to drugs was found hanged at his girlfriend’s home, an inquest heard.

Clifford Lee (37), who suffered from anxiety and depression, had told his GP that he had first taken heroin aged 23. Despite being prescribed methadone and engaging with the Inclusion service which provides support for those with alcohol and drug problems, he continued to use heroin and crack cocaine.

Winchester Coroner’s Court heard how Cliff, as he was known to friends, was given antidepressants by his GP in April as he was struggling to carry out his job as a groundworker due to his anxiety.

In May he told his GP that he was not taking the antidepressants because of the side effects. He added he was still feeling depressed and had thought about hanging himself.

Mr Lee’s girlfriend Rachel Buckberry told the inquest she had known him since school, but they had started dating after meeting again in 2018.

Although she was aware he was doing drugs at that time, she did not know the extent of Mr Lee’s addiction, she said.

She said: “He’d sometimes go for a week without doing anything and then he’d go on a bender. It would depend how he was feeling, I think it was his escape. He’s always been a troubled man.”

Asked if he had discussed committing suicide she added: “He’d say it, sort of jokingly, to get a reaction. If we had an argument he’d say he was going to cut himself, but I felt it was just a cry for attention. I never thought he’d actually be able to do that [suicide] to himself.”

On the evening before he died, the couple had argued and Ms Buckberry went to a friend's. When she returned home she said she found evidence of Mr Lee’s drug taking and added: “I instantly knew he had been on it.”

Ms Buckberry last saw her boyfriend at around 3.30am on 1st June. When she woke up later that morning at around 11am, she discovered him hanged in the back garden. Despite calling the emergency services, Mr Lee could not be revived.

Sgt Marcus Baker told the court that he had attended the property in New Street, Ringwood, and found there to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Lee’s death.

A post-mortem examination carried out by Dr Sanjay Jogai gave the cause of death as hanging. A toxicology report revealed he had consumed a small amount of alcohol as well morphine, methadone and cocaine.

Assistant coroner Samantha Marsh said she could not be sure due to the influence of drugs whether Mr Lee intended to kill himself. She recorded a narrative verdict that he died from hanging while under the influence of illicit drugs.

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