Coroner rules death of Burnley College student was accidental
A CORONER has ruled that the death of a Burnley College student who fell from a flat was accidental.
Ryan Anderton, 18, died in the street after he climbed through a skylight at the flat he had gone to with two men following a night out in Rawtenstall. Coroner Michael Singleton said that ‘important pieces of the jigsaw’ surrounding Ryan's death were still missing.
But he said he was satisfied the former Alder Grange pupil had not intended to take his own life.
The inquest at Clitheroe Coroner's Court heard that Ryan had left his grandmother's home, where he lived, for a night out with friend Matthew Hopkinson on February 11 this year. The pair, with other friends, went to The Queens pub, where Ryan was drinking vodka and colas, before Matthew decided to leave with his girlfriend Lydia Haynes at 1.30am.
Ryan told another friend, Jamie Gill, that he had taken ketamine that night, the court was told.
Later Ryan, Jamie and a third man, Adam Jacobs, left the pub to go to the Rhythm Station.
But Jamie said Ryan suddenly asked 'has anyone got any pills?' and repeated that he had taken ketamine.
Once inside the nightclub Ryan went around taking drinks out of unattended bottles until around 3am when everyone started to leave, the inquest heard.
Mark Hughes, director of letting agent Rent Smart, which managed the flat, and one of his casual workers Jonathan Holmes had also been at the club that night when they noticed Ryan outside, the court heard.
Mr Hughes said that he walked over to a kiosk at a nearby fairground, so he could urinate, when Ryan approached him and started kissing him.
The court heard that, while he was 'not gay', Mr Hughes did not object as he felt Ryan was harmless.
Shortly afterwards the three shared a taxi back to Kay Street, Rawtenstall, where Mr Holmes was going to spend the night in an empty flat managed by Rent Smart.
Mr Hughes said he retrieved the keys from the rental office and switched on the electrics, then went to look for a fold-up bed for Mr Holmes to sleep on.
The inquest was told that Ryan went up the stairs to the attic while Mr Hughes was making a phone call to a business colleague.
But Ryan suddenly disappeared and despite searching the flat, including the attic, they could not find him. The skylight window was ajar.
Mr Holmes told the inquest that minutes later he saw Ryan slumped in a doorway but returned to lock up the flat.
Mr Holmes said: "I just thought he was drunk and fell asleep because I didn't expect anything like this to happen."
The inquest heard that after Mr Holmes locked the flat, with Mr Hughes still inside, he threw away the keys. Mr Hughes said he had to climb out of a kitchen window and walk home afterwards.
Police were also on the scene shortly afterwards and an ambulance was called by officers. But Ryan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Questioned by various police officers over the next couple of hours Mr Holmes told them he had been to Nino's restaurant and had returned to the Rent Smart offices to find Ryan collapsed in the street.
Mr Holmes and Mr Hughes were initially arrested and quizzed on suspicion of murder by Lancashire Police's major incident team but later released without charge.
Giving evidence, Matthew Hopkinson revealed how he received two text messages from Ryan minutes before his death. One read 'help' and the other 'being raped'.
When questioned by the coroner about the text messages, Mr Hughes protested his innocence regarding any involvement in Ryan's death.
He said: "I have not hurt him, I have not threatened him, I have not done anything that would have put him in fear of his own safety.
"I will never know why he would think this or send these text messages and why he would feel unsafe and go out of this window."
Home Office pathologist Dr Charles Wilson, who conducted a post-mortem examination on Ryan, said there was no evidence of an assault or physical struggle involving the deceased prior to his death.
Medical tests showed that his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for driving and there was evidence of cathinones in his system, demonstrating he had taken mephedrone that night.
The fall had shattered his right kneecap and caused his right femur to shatter but there was no evidence of heavy internal bleeding, said Dr Wilson.
He told the inquest that if Ryan had been knocked unconscious during the fall the impact could have caused irreversible brain damage, leading to his death, or his airways could have become obstructed, with the same effect.
Det Insp Mark Rothwell, the senior investigating officer for Lancashire Police, said that hours of CCTV footage had been surveyed, as part of the inquiry into Ryan's death and mobile phone evidence had been compiled.
The inquest heard that Ryan had been in an on-off relationship with an older man, Brian Alcock, in the months before his death.
His final text message, after the two to Matthew Hopkinson, was known to have been sent to Mr Alcock.
But Mr Rothwell said that even with expert analysis from mobile phone specialists, the contents of the last message remained unknown.
Coroner Mr Singleton said he could not consider a verdict of unlawful killing as there was no evidence of a physical assault or struggle before the death took place.
And as he weighed nearly 20 stone, the inquest heard it would have been almost impossible to physically eject Ryan out of the skylight against his will.
Earlier in the hearing Ryan's friend Matthew Hopkinson had recalled incidents around a week before the death, when Ryan had became upset at a house party.
Ryan had alternately tried to walk out in front of a passing car in Waterfoot and then attempted to throw himself into a stream, before his friend intervened, the inquest heard, and he was taken home.
Dr Wilson said that one of the recognised after-effects of mephedrone was the deep depression it could provoke in certain users. Ryan had been treated for depression previously but was not latterly on medication.
But Mr Singleton said that, even if he had climbed out of the skylight, there was no indication he intended to take his own life.
Recording an accidental verdict, Mr Singleton said: "It seems to me on the balance of probabilities that this is more likely to have been an accident, that Ryan climbed out of the window, recognising that it was dangerous, but not intending the fatal consquences that were to follow."
Family's campaign for a change in the law
COLLEGE student Ryan Anderton’s family is determined the 18-year-old’s legacy will help ensure others do not suffer in the same way he did.
An inquest, at Clitheroe, heard after Ryan fell from an attic window, PC Gareth Robinson arrived on the scene to find him breathing shallowly, with, a faint pulse.
One man with him that night saw him on the floor but, believing he was drunk, returned to lock up the flat, the court heard. The man did not realise Ryan was injured, the inquest heard.
Ryan’s mother, Catrina Anderton, said: “We are seeking a change in the law through a petition to Parliament which requires that anyone, who witnesses an event where a person is clearly injured, must contact the emergency services.
“It came to our attention that this is not currently the case and while, in Ryan’s case, it may, or may not, have made a difference, our belief is that more immediate attention could result in a very difficult outcome in some cases.”
An online petition has been created at www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37979
Renewed appeal to trace taxi driver
DETECTIVES have launched a fresh appeal for an unknown taxi driver who took a fare involving tragic student Ryan Anderton and two other men.
Det Insp Mark Rothwell, of the Lancashire force’s major incident team, said it was confirmed, for the first time, at the inquest, that Ryan, Mark Hughes and Jonathan Holmes, had shared a taxi from Rawtenstall's Rhythm Station nightclub to nearby Kay Street.
No cabbie has so far come forward, despite repeated media appeals.
DI Rothwell said: “We still want to find this taxi and we would ask anyone who remembers dropping off three men in the Kay Street area in the early hours of February 11, to come forward.”
The inquest heard the taxi driver may be fearful to come forward because, either the cabbie was not licensed to work in Rossendale or, as a private hire driver, was not permitted to pick up such fares.
But Mr Rothwell said the most important issue was whether the driver had any information which could help police inquiries.
Call Lancashire Police on 101, or Pennine CID on 01282 425001.