A suspected burglar found dead in the chimney of a Derby solicitor's office suffocated to death in "very tragic circumstances", a coroner has said today.
The body of Kevin Gough, 43, was found in the chimney stack of Moody & Woolley Solicitors in St Mary's Gate, Derby, on May 1.
Staff at the firm had reported a bad smell and a pest control company had been contacted. Builders subsequently made the grim discovery while carrying out repairs at the terraced property and police were called.
Officers gained access inside the law firm and found Mr Gough's badly decomposed body stuck inside the chimney. The chimney breast and fireplace had been completely bricked up from the inside.
Mr Gough, who was wanted in connection with a burglary elsewhere in Derby, was identified by fingerprints. The coroner said cause of death was found to be postural asphyxiation.
He had brick marks across his back and chest due to the confined space he had come to rest in, which would not allow his chest to expand and would have affected his ability to breathe.
The inquest also heard that there was a lack of air in the chimney as it it had been completely sealed up at the bottom.
When found Mr Gough's t-shirt had drawn up around his neck in the tightness of the space and had also constricted his airway, the coroner said.
The coroner Dr Robert Hunter told Mr Gough's mother, who was at the inquest with other family members, that her son would have passed out quickly.
"There would have been a rapid loss of consciousness," he said, "and death within a manner of minutes.
"This would be why he did not call for help and the people working within the building had not heard him."
It is not clear why Mr Gough had gone into the chimney but coroner Dr Hunter said he was satisfied he had made his way in there of his own volition and nobody else had been involved.
Mr Gough had also previously been arrested in March after being found in possession of prescribed medication that was not in his own name.
Methadone was found in his liver but was in insufficient quantities to have caused his death. The coroner recorded a conclusion of misadventure.
He had gone to that premises and had entered that chimney," the coroner said.
"What he would not know is that the chimney had been blocked up."
Dr Hunter said Mr Gough would likely have realised there was no way out when he got to the bottom and he had got stuck.
He told the family that the pathologist who carried out the post mortem was keen to emphasise that he would have quickly lost consciousness and would not have been calling for help for a long period of time.
Mr Hunter said: "His death would have been very, very quick.
"He would not have lingered in the chimney for two or three days.
"It's a little bit of comfort, not a great comfort, I'm sure you'd prefer to have him alive and well."
Additional reporting by the Press Association.
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