BBC's 'Big George' died after he took illegal drug, inquest told

Presenter collapsed after suffering amassive heart attack and died before the paramedics could treat him
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The Independent Online

A BBC Radio presenter who composed the theme tune to Have I Got News For You died from a heart attack after taking the illegal drug mephedrone, an inquest has heard.

George Webley, 53, better-known to listeners as "Big George" was found at home by his wife in May. He had collapsed after suffering a massive heart attack and died before the paramedics could treat him.

An inquest at Milton Keynes Coroner's Court heard on Monday that Mr Webley had taken the Class-B drug mephedrone before his heart attack. He had a history of heart disease, the inquest heard, which made him more susceptible to the drug's ill-effects.

Coroner Thomas Osborne recorded a verdict of death by "misadventure".

Mr Osborne told the inquest that it would be wrong to record that Mr Webley had died from natural causes.

"Because of the cathinones in his blood, these designer drugs, and his previous illness, it's more likely than not that the final event was caused by the drugs in his system," Mr Osborne told the inquest.

Father of four Mr Webley, who won a Sony Award for his show on BBC Three Counties Radio, was found struggling for breath at his home in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire on May 7 this year.

His wife, Julia, called an ambulance but he died before paramedics could treat him. Mephedrone, also known as meow-meow, is an illegal stimulant and a popular drug among clubbers. It was made illegal in April last year after being linked to a number of deaths.

Mr Webley, who suffered a previous heart attack aged 38, was a patron of the Milton Keynes Community Cardiac Group. The post-mortem examination found his death to be caused by long-standing heart disease and illegal use of cathinones; amphetamines present in some brands of mephedrone.

Mr Webley's son, Harry, said the family would not comment on the inquest findings Mr Webley, who had three grandchildren, was also a musician. His radio career began in 1990, when he hosted the late Saturday show on the BBC's London station, GLR. In the late 1990s, he returned to Milton Keynes to host a programme on Horizon Radio.

He returned to the BBC with Three Counties Radio. Popular with listeners, "Big George" won a gold Sony Award for best music presenter for the show.

Mr Webley was also a band leader and a composer. He was the person who composed the musical theme for the BBC chat show, Room 101. A BBC spokeswoman commented that the radio presenter would be "sorely missed" by his friends and colleagues at the BBC.

"Our thoughts remain with George's family and friends following his untimely death," she said.

"We know he is sorely missed, both here at BBC London and by his many listeners," the spokeswoman added.