Inquest rules drugs as cause of student death

James Matthews

James Matthews

An inquest into the death of a University of York student this week has concluded that he died because of a dependency on drugs.

The University has confirmed that it was aware of the student’s drug problem and had provided support for him, but they were unable to do anything to stop the death.

However the University has refused to comment on the exact details of the level of support that it gave to the student.

James Matthews, 23, was a third-year Politics, Economics and Philosophy student and a member of Halifax College. The inquest was told that he hadn’t taken one lethal drugs overdose, but that a combination of methadone and a number of other drugs, together, proved fatal.

James had received support from his departments and the University support services before he died – as well as Compass, the local York drug support agency. The inquest heard that James was a frequent user of a variety of drugs and one of his housemates described how his recurrent drug use in the week before his death was apparent.

On the night before he died he was said to have come home shaking and sweating, and friends had to try and restrain him from leaving to buy more drugs.

However, James was said to have gone out and returned with blue Valium tablets and ketamine, despite their efforts.

York Coroner Donald Coverdale commenting on the dangers of taking drugs, stated: “It is an unhappy story of a young man who was thoroughly enmeshed in the drug culture.

“He was habitually using a variety of drugs in combination and that effect alone – combining various substances – can be very dangerous.”

David Garner, the University Senior Press Officer, stated that: “The University was greatly saddened by his tragic death and our thoughts are with James’ family at this time.

“James did receive considerable support both from his department and from student support services, the details of which remain confidential.”

James was pronounced dead at 2.01pm on 4th August last year at his house near to the University.

One friend spoke about the night that he died, describing how James couldn’t keep his eyes open and that he was afraid of falling asleep.

The inquest also heard from a fellow housemate who found James lying, but not breathing, on a sofa in their student house.

The University’s Student Welfare Policy on Substance Use and Abuse states that: “Support should be available for those concerned about substance use and abuse by others and how they should act upon their concerns.”

Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, would not comment on the inquest, simply saying: “James’s presence will be missed on campus.”