Coroner queries overdose verdict on death of Diana's wayward stepbrother

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The Independent Online

A coroner yesterday challenged the findings of the Cambodian police investigation into the death of the stepbrother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

A coroner yesterday challenged the findings of the Cambodian police investigation into the death of the stepbrother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Returning an open verdict on Adam Shand Kydd, whose naked body was found surrounded by empty pill packets in Phnom Penh in April, Dr Paul Knapman said the authorities' conclusion that he died of an overdose of sleeping pills "leaves something to desire".

An inquest in London heard there was no evidence that Mr Shand Kydd, 49, had taken cocaine or heroin before his death despite the presence of morphine in his system, the by-product of pain killers he was taking. The author and socialite, had been suffering from an enlarged heart and three of his coronary arteries were 50 per cent blocked with fatty deposits. He was also taking medication for psychological problems and high blood pressure.

Seven strips of Valium, missing 94 pills, were found in his dishevelled flat along with packets of Rivotril, which can be used against panic attacks, and kamagra, a generic version of Viagra. But it remained impossible to determine the cause of death as no post-mortem tests were carried out in Cambodia and Mr Shand Kydd's body was embalmed before it was returned to Britain. Dr Peter Wilkins, a pathologist who identified Mr Shand Kydd's heart problems, said it was very common for people to die suddenly from such conditions.

Dr Knapman said: "Has Mr Shand Kydd died of a deliberate overdose, an accidental overdose, has it been an overdose at all? Certainly that may well not be the case. It may well be his heart at the time.One explanation was that he was taking possibly too many tablets, probably in association with alcohol.

"It's not clear which they were, when they were taken or why they were taken."

Dr Knapman said: "It's not clear whether this has been some form of abusive drugs, suicide, accident or indeed natural causes." He ruled out foul play, but said it was impossible to ascertain the cause of death.

Mr Shand Kydd, whose father scandalised the British establishment by having an affair with Diana's mother in the 1960s, had been acting in a bizarre fashion shortly before his death. A statement was read to the inquest from Leng Sang, a cleaner, who found Mr Shand Kydd's body. It said: "When I was climbing up to clean his room I saw him take his clothes and throw them around the room. was about to arrange them but he refused. He then slapped his head many times. Then I left to clean other rooms."

Sperm was found on his body and he had suffered a swollen left ankle, the inquest heard.

It was claimed that he told the owner of the apartment, Seng Nimol, that he was suffering from "belly pains" and had been being sick after eating.

Police found half a bottle of wine, a packet of Marlboro cigarettes and his backpack at the scene.

Professor Atholl Johnston, the director of laboratory services at St George's Hospital, performed tests on Mr Shand Kydd's eyes and liver. He found 117mg of alcohol per 100ml in one examination, while morphine was found as a breakdown product of the pain reliever codeine, not from heroin. There were also traces of diazepam and temazepam, from his sleeping pills and anxiety drugs.

Dr Knapman said of the findings: "What you are saying is that it's unreliable. We have done the best that we can...

"We don't have evidence of heroin. We don't have evidence of cocaine." Asked if Mr Shand Kydd had overdosed, Professor Johnston said: "It's possible but it's not really showing that."

Mr Shand Kydd, who was educated at Stowe School, had returned to Cambodia from his home in west London only a month before his death. He spent much of his life in the shadow of his stepsister, but achieved success in his own right with his only published novel, Happy Trails, in 1984.

It was the highlight of his literary career although he was well regarded as a military historian and a leading light on London's social scene where he was an acclaimed raconteur and wit. The coroner's officer, Roy Campbell, told the hearing: "He was a voracious reader with a huge knowledge of military history - a lover of good company and conversation."

Born into a family that made its fortune making wallpaper, Mr Shand Kydd worked as a stage manager at the Open Space Theatre in central London and at the publisher Cassell as a proof-reader.

Despite newspaper reports to the contrary, a statement from his GP in Britain, Dr Eric Huang, stated that Mr Shand Kydd was on drugs to control his high blood pressure but was not known "to have any history of drugs misuse".