A young filmmaker whose body was discovered in a derelict house where he had slept rough during the making of a documentary on homeless people died from a rare fatal syndrome.
Lee Halpin, 26, had been hoping to win an internship with Channel 4 and was filming in the West End of Newcastle-upon-Tyne during an unseasonal freezing snap in April.
An inquest today concluded he had died from Adult Sudden Death Syndrome, a cardiac condition which can affect apparently healthy young people and often leaves no traces of disease.
Mr Halpin, a popular and promising journalist, had hoped the film would reinforce his application to the broadcaster and was seeking to demonstrate his “fearless” determination to get to “the heart of a story”. It was feared he had suffered hypothermia.
In a recorded message posted on YouTube the day before filming, he said the project was causing his friends and family a huge amount of trepidation.
"I will sleep rough for a week, scrounge for my food, access the services that other homeless individuals in the West End use. I will interact with as many homeless people as possible and immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can. I hope that you perceive this to be a fearless approach to a story.”
Coroner Karen Dilks concluded he died from natural causes. She repeated the findings of Mary Shepherd a national heart expert from the Royal Brompton Hospital, telling the hearing: "This could have occurred at any time or place. The circumstances in which Lee was living played no part, in her opinion."
Sudden Death Syndrome claims the lives of 500 children, teens, or young adults in the UK each year. It is linked to a genetic heart condition and is most prevalent in men.
A spokesman for Channel 4 said: "We were terribly saddened to learn of the tragic death of this aspiring young journalist." The broadcaster was unaware that Mr Halpin was making the film when he died. Mr Halpin's parents and brother attended the inquest, along with some of his friends.
Paddy Richardson, 22, from Newcastle, said after the hearing: "Lee was a canny wordsmith, a pleasure to know, a keen socialist and a great friend. Lots of people are really going to miss him."