Whistleblower Sean Hoare saw drink as 'crutch'


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The Independent Online

Sean Hoare, the former News of the World reporter who blew the whistle on phone hacking within the upper ranks of the defunct tabloid, used alcohol as a crutch to cope with the pressure of the unfolding scandal at News International, his inquest heard today.

Mr Hoare, who was found dead at his home in July, suffered from alcoholic liver disease and died from natural causes, the coroner for Hertfordshire, Edward Thomas, ruled yesterday.

Mr Hoare, who had said he was fired from the newspaper while suffering from drug and alcohol problems, made fresh allegations to The New York Times in September last year about those involved in phone hacking at the paper.

The inquest heard that Mr Hoare, 48, a charismatic former showbusiness reporter, abstained from drinking for at least 12 months after being told by specialists that he would have irreversible liver damage if he did not stop drinking.

The inquest heard that he drank heavily while working at the newspaper but had treatment from late 2008 which saw him put on weight because he switched from drink to sweets. He found work at an equestrian centre.

Tests had been “really positive," said Mr Thomas, but in December 2010, he was found to have a high level of alcohol in his blood as he dealt with the stress prompted by his revelations about the News of the World.

“He was indicating that he was drinking as a crutch. He was under stress due to the interest generated by the breaking of the News International story,” said Mr Thomas.

His health steadily declined and he was told he had irreversible liver disease in May but he continued to speak out about practices at the newspaper.

He last saw his GP on July 7 after he stubbed his toe and it became infected. At that stage he said he was drinking around four units of alcohol a week. The inquest, which lasted for 30 minutes, was told that in his final weeks, he often felt tired and had fallen on a number of occasions.

Mr Hoare’s father raised the alarm about his son after he had not been seen since July 13. Police who went to his house in Watford, Hertfordshire, broke in five days later and found him on his bed. He was believed to have been dead for some time.

Tests later showed a comparatively low level of alcohol in Mr Hoare’s blood, slightly below the drink-drive limit.

Mr Hoare’s brother Stuart told the inquest that the medical evidence “reflected the deterioration and stress he was under for the last few months”.

In a statement, Mr Hoare’s family said that he had a “special and unique character; he always put others first and nothing was too much trouble for him.

“He was full of charm and had a wonderful sense of humour, which will always bring a smile to us when we thing of the laughter and joy he gave us.”

The inquest heard that his wife Joanne was on holiday with her mother at the time of Mr Hoare’s death because she thought he was well enough to leave.