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Rat poison death - a grand gesture that went wrong

PUBLISHED: 09:05 14 July 2011

(click on image for larger view) Views of  the coroners court for web library.

(click on image for larger view) Views of the coroners court for web library.


A ‘WELL-LIKED’ young man died after swallowing rat poison, an inquest has heard.

Ryan Davis died on December 22 after taking four or five phostoxin tablets and a coroner this week said the 23-year-old may have taken the poison without realising that it could kill him.

The former chairman of the Weston and Banwell Young Farmers group swallowed the tablets having suffered from depression after splitting up with his girlfriend, and died in Weston General Hospital less than three hours later.

At the inquest, held at Flax Bourton Coroners Court on Tuesday, the court heard that Mr Davis, of Withy Road, East Huntspill, split up with girlfriend Kaye Harding in October.

His GP Doctor Jonathan Upton said Mr Davis had confided to him that he felt suicidal, while Miss Harding received several texts saying that he was considering killing himself.

At about 6.30am on December 22, Mr Davis swallowed four or five of the tablets, a combined dose of 15g, before calling an ambulance at 7.01am and saying he was being sick and slipping in and out of consciousness.

He was taken to Weston General Hospital, but died at 9.13am.

Dr Edward Sheffield, pathologist at the hospital, told the inquest that phostoxin was designed to kill small animals by gradually releasing highly toxic phosphine gas - but this process was made much more lethal through direct contact with water or acid, as in the human body.

There is no known antidote and Dr Sheffield said more than 4.5g of the substance could be fatal.

Mr Davis’ grandfather, John Lamb said his grandson had recently bought farming equipment with a view to developing the family farm, and a fancy dress outfit for a party on Boxing Day, saying they were not the actions of someone planning on killing themselves.

Dr Upton also added that the last time he had spoken to Mr Davis, on December 21, he had sounded ‘relaxed’ and happy that he had been given time off work due to the heavy snowfall.

Saying he was not satisfied Mr Davis had meant to take his own life, assistant deputy coroner Terrence Moore ruled a verdict of misadventure. He said: “I think it’s far more likely that this was another grand gesture that went horribly and disastrously wrong.”

His mother Karen Davis paid tribute to her son, saying: “Ryan was well-liked and highly thought of. He had an enthusiasm for life.”

The coroner added that although the product’s labelling said it was toxic, it did not warn of the dangers if ingested, and he would write to Rentokil, who manufactured the product, and licensing authorities to see if such labels could be introduced.

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