The Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard had been a habitual user of cocaine for several months, and was four times over the legal limit for drink-driving when his body was discovered on a railway track in south-east London in the early hours of the morning last summer, according to evidence put before an inquest into his death.
The jury at Westminster Coroners Court returned a verdict of accidental death at an inquest during which Maynard was described by Surrey team-mates as "incredibly talented" and "the club's most highly prized asset".
Maynard, a right-handed batsman who had been widely tipped to play for England, had been on a night out with two of his team-mates, England bowler Jade Dernbach and the former Surrey captain Rory Hamilton-Brown, in the Ship pub in Wandsworth and later the Aura nightclub in Mayfair. He returned home in the early hours of Monday 18 June, from where he telephoned his girlfriend, Carly Baker, at 3.30am, telling her he was coming to see her.
But the inquest heard that before he could get there his car was stopped by aofficers in an unmarked police car, patrolling for suspected car thieves, who saw him "driving erratically". They followed Maynard's black Mercedes into Ryfold Road, in Wimbledon, and then switched on the blue lights. Maynard ran off in the direction of Wimbledon Park at around 4am. One of the officers followed him, but soon lost him. A dog unit was called, but Maynard could not be found.
At 5.03am, Martin Hopping, a train driver, saw his body on the tracks. Injuries show he was electrocuted by live wires. "Initially I thought that white ballast bags had been left on the tracks," he said. "To my horror I saw a pair of trainers. The person was perfectly still lying across all four tracks. The arms were down by its side. The impression I had was not that it had fallen but that this person had laid down."
Nevertheless, the coroner Fiona Wilcox said the evidence could not justify a suicide verdict.
Dr Simon Poole, a forensic science pathologist said that hair samples taken from Maynard's body showed signs consistent with "habitual or daily use" of cocaine over the three-and-a-half month period in which the hair had grown. His body also contained traces of MDMA, the drug most commonly known as ecstasy, as well as the presence of compounds that showed cocaine had combined with alcohol in his body, strongly suggesting he had taken cocaine that night.
Giving evidence, his girlfriend Ms Baker, Dernbach and Hamilton-Brown, the latter of whom he shared a flat with, all claimed they did not know Maynard had been using drugs. The punishment for a cricketer, if caught, would be a two-year ban, but testing for recreational drugs, rather than performance-enhancing ones, is not standardised in English cricket. Officials have said they will improve testing for recreational drugs.
Giving evidence, Baker said Maynard had sounded "unusually down" when he telephoned her. "He said three times, 'You're the only thing that makes me happy'," she told the court, and explained she had told him not to drive over as she thought he had been drinking. She knew Maynard was driving, as she could tell his phone was on the loudspeaker setting. When Maynard did not arrive, she phoned him "50 times".
Maynard had faced a previous disciplinary charge from Surrey after he had been hit by a car while drinking, sustaining an injury that had kept him out of the team.
PC Steve Tucker, of the British Transport Police, said getting on the railway tracks "involved climbing over barbed wire", and "would have taken some effort".
The physio at Surrey, Alex Tysone, described Maynard as "the life and soul of the club. He had the looks, the charm, the talent, but there wasn't an arrogant bone in his body," he said in a statement read before the court.
Maynard's father is the former England cricketer Matthew Maynard. His son had already toured with the England Lions.
In a statement issued through the Professional Cricketers' Association, the Maynard family said: "The results of the inquest do not define our son. The fact that so very many people thought the world of him is what defines him as a person. "He was a very special person and his death leaves a huge hole in all our lives."