A man caused the death of a friend after he slipped 27 anti-depressant tablets into his beer “for a laugh”, a court heard.
Dwarf Jason Wood had been drinking heavily with mates and was believed to have died within about three hours of the drug being administered.
Lee Webster was arrested after he admitted to others he had put the 30mg mirtazapine pills into 30-year-old Mr Wood’s beer can while he was in the toilet.
“We say that unlawful act was a substantial cause of his death,” prosecutor Anthony Haycroft told Maidstone Crown Court.
Webster, of Dover Road East, Gravesend, denies manslaughter and an alternative charge of administering poison or noxious substance as to endanger life.
Mr Haycroft said Webster lived at the house in Camden Square, Ramsgate, with Steve McNamara, 27, and Ian Sherringham and Mr Wood would drink with them there.
The victim, who was 4ft tall and weighed just six stone, had health issues including sleep apnoea, which caused difficulty in breathing at night. He was given an oxygen mask to wear but did not use it.
Webster, a 26-year-old father, had been prescribed the anti-depressants for a few months.
Mr Haycroft said Webster, Mr McNamara and Mr Wood had been drinking for a number of days. Mr Sherringham had been away from the four-storey house.
When he returned on the morning of Monday October 22 last year Mr Wood appeared to be asleep in an armchair on the ground floor. He later tried to wake him up, but discovered he was dead.
He called Mr Wood’s sister Tracey West, and alerted the emergency services.
Police found out about the tablets because of what Webster said to others after Mr Wood’s death and through tests carried out on the body.
Webster admitted to his father Stephen Allen on November 17 he had put the tablets in Mr Wood’s beer and said he “may have accidentally killed him”.
“There is no suggestion he did anything intending to kill Jason. It may well have been done as a joke but we have to look at the consequences of that” - prosecutor Anthony Haycroft
He also told his sister Stephanie he did it, saying he thought it would be a laugh.
Mr Wood’s sister wanted to find out more and added Webster as a Facebook friend.
He told her in a message: “Tracey, I am so sorry. I put 27 of my mirtazapine tablets into Jason’s beer that night.”
Webster told Mr Sherringham: “When Jason came back into the room he said his beer tasted funny. I said: ‘No, it doesn’t, just drink it.’ Jason drank his beer.”
Mr Haycroft told the jury of nine men and three women: “In effect, he accepted putting the pills into Jason’s beer. He said it was done as a joke.
“There is no suggestion he did anything intending to kill Jason. It may well have been done as a joke but we have to look at the consequences of that.”
The prosecutor said a preliminary post mortem examination at the QEQM Hospital found Mr Wood had an abnormal accumulation of fluid in his lungs and a frothy fluid in his airways.
There was no heart abnormality or any other significant findings.
“At that stage the doctor could not work out the cause of death,” said Mr Haycroft. “She took samples of blood, urine and liver and sent them off for analysis.
“Alcohol was found in the blood and urine. His blood showed alcohol getting on for three times the legal limit for driving. If not used to alcohol, that would be an awful lot.
“We say that was his lifestyle. It could have affected him, but not as much as most people.”
Mr Haycroft said the amount of mirtazapine found was at a level that had in the past caused death.
“You may think it is a matter of commonsense that the effect of drugs like this can be made worse after drinking as well,” he said. “The only significant unique factor here is the mirtazapine tablets.
“The pathologist looked at the whole picture and it is her opinion the cause of death was an overdose of mirtazapine combined with the alcohol.
“The prosecution do not have to prove the cause of death. She was asked whether she considered the taking of 27 mirtazapine tablets more than minimally contributed to his death. She said yes.
“She said the amount of the drug, which has in the past caused fatalities, together with the alcohol would have been a significant factor in his death, especially when it was within three hours of taking the tablets.”
The trial continues tomorrow.