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Jury returns misadventure verdict at inquest of Gravesend teenager Ed Barry after drugs death

By Danny Boyle
Ed Barry, 14-year-old found dead in a Gravesend home

Ed Barry was 14 when he died at a flat in Gravesend

by Thom Morris

A jury has today returned a verdict of death by misadventure at an inquest into the death of Gravesend teenager Edward Barry.

After more than two weeks of proceedings – which saw questions asked of police, social services, friends and family – the jury concluded deliberations at the Old Town Hall in Gravesend.

Edward, known to his friends as Ed, was found dead in a flat in Parrock Street, Gravesend, in November 2009.

The teenager, of Pelham Road South, Gravesend, was just 14.

The Gravesend Grammar School pupil (pictured right) had died as a result of the combined effects of methadone and diazepam intoxication.

Ed Barry was found dead in a drug addict's flat in Gravesend

Coroner Roger Hatch, who this morning outlined all the evidence given over the last fortnight, expressed his sympathies but made no further comments.

He said: "I'm sure the jury will join my in expressing sympathy to the family."

Geoff Wybar, head teacher at Gravesend Grammar School, said today: "Regardless of legal outcomes and verdicts, nothing will restore a young life lost. The tragedy of Ed's death will haunt his family and friends for eternity; no parents should have to bury their child.

"Ed’s friends at GGS will remember his intelligence, humour and sensitivity with great fondness."

Ed - whose family and teachers had pleaded with police, health and social services to help him - was found dead in recovering heroin addict James Drummond's flat in Parrock Street.

The 29-year-old told the inquest he did not bother calling an ambulance in the hours before Ed died because he thought he was drunk.

Mr Drummond said he had kicked heroin four years before Ed's death, but was on prescription methadone.

He first met Ed in Lord Street car park, Gravesend, a popular spot for skaters.

He invited him back to his Parrock Street flat one day and they smoked weed, watched television and played computer games.

He said: "Sometimes he'd stay; sometimes he'd come and smoke a joint for an hour."

By November, Ed had effectively moved in and was sleeping on a beanbag.

Mr Drummond added: "The first time he just ended up crashing there, but after that he said he was having problems at home and couldn't live there so I said he could stay at my flat for a period of time.

"I'd like to state that I never asked him for any money, I was just trying to help."

The night before his death, Mr Drummond said Ed was devastated about the break up with his girlfriend and was crying and punching the walls.

The next day the pair left the flat. Mr Drummond left to visit his mother and grandmother while Ed, who did not have a key to get back into the flat, headed to a skate park in Dartford.

Returning at about 10pm, Mr Drummond found Ed had made it through the communal front door and was slumped by his door inside.

Floral tributes to Edward Barry in Parrock Street, Gravesend

He added: "He was passed out outside my flat. I dragged him in and put him in the recovery position and put a pillow under his head and covered him in a blanket."

Mr Drummond, who said he had never seen Ed so intoxicated, then drank until 2am and checked Ed roughly every 45 minutes.

"I said 'you alright?' and he said 'yeah' but he couldn't really talk properly. He didn't move throughout the night and he wasn't moving around a lot.

"I believed he was under the influence of alcohol, but not hard drugs.

"He'd had too much to drink and would sleep it off. If I saw signs of him using hard drugs I would have called an ambulance."

At about noon the next day, Ed remained in the same position and when Mr Drummond checked on him, he was cold to the touch. He called 999.

"I was pretty sure he was deceased and I told the person on the phone that, ‘I'm pretty sure he's dead’."

A bottle of half-empty methadone was found on the kitchen counter about six feet from where Ed was found dead.

A post mortem revealed Ed died from a fatal overdose.

Mr Drummond insisted he never gave Ed the drug and if he had taken it, he would have taken it during the night without his consent.

An inquest was originally opened in May 2010, but delayed when the case became embroiled in a row between KCC social services and the coroner.

The hearing was adjourned after KCC took the coroner to the High Court in a bid to stop the inquest being heard by a jury, and if it did go ahead, how they should be directed.

Judges ruled in October the inquest should go ahead with a jury.

An inquest jury does not apportion blame to anyone and it is not their function to express any judgement or opinion.

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