A father-of-three died in “absolute agony” 10 days after he was dared to eat a gecko by friends at a party, his family has said.
Mr Dowell's family said he began vomiting green bile, his urine turned black and fluid leaked from his stomach, which had bloated so much that he looked like he was six months pregnant.
More than half a year on, his family have said they are still searching for answers over what caused his death after hearing conflicting reports about what happened at the party.
“There has been no evidence that he actually ate [the gecko] because there was: 'Oh yeah I saw him eat it'. And then: 'No, I didn’t see him eat it,'” his daughter Hannah told the Brisbane Times.
She added: "It was a dare, so he might have intended to eat it and then thrown it away.”
However, when Mr Dowell’s partner, Allira, told a doctor about the gecko, they reportedly said it could have been the cause of the illness.
The family said when he first fell ill, paramedics were reluctant to take him to hospital as they believed he only had a bad bout of gastroenteritis or a hangover.
Less than two weeks after he was dared to eat the gecko, Mr Dowell died in surgery.
Allira told 7News that the attention around her partner had been extremely distressing and she wanted him to be remembered for more than the cause of his death.
"I didn't want him remembered like this, I want to remember the happy times," she said.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria, known for causing foodborne illnesses, that in typical cases only leads to diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever.
Mark Turner, deputy head at the University of Queensland school of agriculture and food sciences, said the gecko may have been the cause of the death because a wide range of animals can carry salmonella, such as turtles, snakes, frogs and geckos.
“It’s possible that if the gecko was eaten, as it was being digested, the salmonella was released, but I have never heard of anything like this before,” he told the Brisbane Times.
In a statement, Mater Hospital, where Dowell was treated, said it could not comment on the cause of death due to patient confidentiality.
It added that the "case was referred to the coroner, who determined Mater had provided appropriate care and no further action was required.”
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