No blame for hospital after Peaky Blinders and Emmerdale actor’s death – inquest

The 48-year-old, who played a police sergeant in the BBC crime drama, died alone at home hours after being discharged, an inquest was told.

Katie Dickinson
Wednesday 19 January 2022 17:12
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary has been absolved of any blame following the actor’s death (PA)
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary has been absolved of any blame following the actor’s death (PA)

A coroner said he is “not at all critical” of a hospital’s decision to discharge a Peaky Blinders and Emmerdale actor just hours before his death.

Toby Kirkup was admitted to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on August 29 2020 before being diagnosed with gastritis and sent home on the same day.

The 48-year-old later died alone at his home in Titanic Mills, Linthwaite, after an aneurysm “ruptured”.

I'm not at all critical of anything that has taken place within the hospital and I understand the reason for the discharge

Ian Pears, assistant coroner

An inquest at Bradford Coroner’s Court was told Mr Kirkup’s family wanted a coroner to investigate his death because they had concerns about his treatment.

A statement from the family, read at the virtual hearing, said Mr Kirkup started to use drink and drugs while at university but had been “clean” since going to a rehab facility in South Africa almost 10 years before his death.

His loved ones said they felt his death was the result of being “wrongly diagnosed” and that the focus had been on his stomach pain rather than chest pain.

The family believed the diagnosis had been based on “a perception of excessive alcohol and drug use”, the statement said, questioning why Mr Kirkup was “sent home with lifestyle advice and told to get some Gaviscon”, an over-the-counter medicine to relieve heartburn and indigestion.

On August 18, just over a week before his death, Mr Kirkup celebrated his birthday, “making use of recreational drugs and alcohol”, the inquest was told.

Pathologist Dr Karen Ramsden said Mr Kirkup died from bleeding caused by a ruptured aortic arch aneurysm.

She added: “I don’t think we can prove chronic cocaine usage was the cause.”

I don't think we can prove chronic cocaine usage was the cause

Dr Karen Ramsden, pathologist

A toxicology report found traces of cocaine in his system, though the results “didn’t indicate recent excessive use”.

Pathologist Dr Karen Ramsden said Mr Kirkup died from bleeding caused by a ruptured aortic arch aneurysm.

She added: “I don’t think we can prove chronic cocaine usage was the cause.”

Dr Robert Palin, who assessed Mr Kirkup when he attended A&E, said that, although the actor went into hospital complaining of chest pain, he did not mention it during their conversation.

He said Mr Kirkup described having pain in his upper abdominal area and told the doctor he had used “recreational drugs and alcohol to celebrate his birthday the previous week”.

Dr Palin told the hearing an electrocardiogram and additional tests did not change his opinion that the most likely cause of the pain was gastritis.

He said: “I didn’t know anything about any prior drug use apart from that which the gentleman told me himself.”

(He was) a gifted musician, sportsman and actor

Mr Kirkup's family

The doctor said Mr Kirkup’s drink and drug use “didn’t affect my reasoning at all”.

Dr Thomas Davies, a consultant in emergency medicine, produced a review of the incident.

He told the inquest the aneurysm would “probably” have been present when he went to hospital, but would also probably have been “undetectable”.

Concluding that Mr Kirkup died of natural causes, assistant coroner Ian Pears said: “It’s quite clear that cardiac procedures were followed.

“I’m not at all critical of anything that has taken place within the hospital and I understand the reason for the discharge.

“It is one of those things where, unfortunately, the condition has then ruptured and become a terminal event.”

Mr Kirkup appeared as a police sergeant in BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders, and also acted in ITV soap Emmerdale.

His previous performances also include a number of Shakespearean roles for a Manchester-based theatre, while his on-screen credits included an appearance on Channel 4’s The Mill.

His family’s statement described him as “a gifted musician, sportsman and actor” who “helped so many people” with his work in rehab clinics.

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