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Canterbury soldier Barry Young from Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, died after hitting his head on drinking binge

By Gazette reporter

An Army sergeant who cracked his head during a drinking binge died in his sleep on Christmas Day, an inquest heard.

Sgt Barry Young, of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, fell on the pavement outside the Cross Keys in Canterbury on Christmas Eve.

When his family collected him, he "couldn't walk or talk" – and tragically they decided he could sleep off the effects.

Soldier Barry Young tragically died after falling and hitting his head

Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, coroner Rebecca Cobb told grieving family members she could appreciate why they acted as they did.

Friend Sean Wardle said Sgt Young, 42, had been known to drink to the point of falling over and described his friend as a "massive binge drinker".

Mr Wardle told the hearing the pair had been drinking in the Cross Keys at the junction of Old Dover Road and Oaten Hill on the afternoon of December 24 last year.

"Barry was getting aggressive," said Mr Wardle. "The barman, who I now know to be the landlord, had told Barry he'd had his last drink and that he was barred."

Mr Wardle described how he tried to bundle his friend out of the pub to prevent trouble flaring.

"I said 'it's not worth the hassle'. I grabbed hold of him. I was walking him out and we both tumbled over and I sort of landed on top of him, essentially," said Mr Wardle.

"I couldn't be sure he hit his head at that point. I tried to pick him up by his wrists. As I did so he slipped and hit his head on the pavement. When I sat him up he kept falling to one side."

The Cross Keys pub in Oaten Hill, Canterbury

During an emotionally-charged hearing, coroner Miss Cobb read a statement from Sgt Young's wife of 15 years, Tracey Young.

Mrs Young described receiving a call from Mr Wardle in the early evening telling her her husband was drunk and had had a fall.

"This was quite normal," she said. "He was always falling and hitting his head."

In her statement, Mrs Young told how she arranged with her brother Gary Burford to collect her husband from the Cross Keys and bring him back to the family home in Sobraon Way on the Howe Barracks complex.

"He couldn't walk or talk or anything," she said, describing how his eyes were rolling as she helped him into bed before heading back downstairs.

"I was in the kitchen and I heard a thud upstairs. He was on his right side snoring loudly. I put cushions under his head and a blanket over him."

Mrs Young said she went to bed around 11pm, but woke some time later.

"I couldn't hear anything from Barry," she said. "I put my hand on his face and he was cold. I put the light on. I ran into the children's room and woke the kids. They called an ambulance."

Paramedics were unable to resuscitate Sgt Young.

North East Kent coroner Rebecca Cobb

The hearing was told Sgt Young had been in the Army for 22 years and had become a regular drinker. He had been based in Germany, but since returning had been drinking heavily.

Post-mortem test results showed his blood contained nearly twice the drink-drive limit.

The coroner explained the levels could not accurately show how much he had consumed that day.

Recording her verdict, Miss Cobb said: "I have to consider whether or not to accept cause of death as head injury.

"I have decided alcohol was a sufficiently contributory factor and I shall include that in the cause.

"His eyes rolling in his head as he went to bed was a sign of injury. I can appreciate how similar signs of head injury can be to those of intoxication."

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