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Stephen Collins died in his sleep awaiting trial for killing two fishermen in Italy

By Katie Nelson

A businessman accused of the manslaughter of two Italian fisherman while six times over the drink-drive limit died in his sleep whilst under house arrest in Italy.

Stephen Collins, formerly of Rainham and West Malling, was awaiting his trial when he died on October 7, 2016.

The 37-year-old was accused of being six times over the drink-drive limit when his rental car crashed into another vehicle, killing two fisherman, in the coastal town of Martinsicuro on December 19, 2015.

Stephen Collins was awaiting a manslaughter trial after a crash in Italy when he died
Stephen Collins was awaiting a manslaughter trial after a crash in Italy when he died

The sales director had been two days into a business trip to Italy, where he was representing his father's textiles business.

On the week of his death, Mr Collins was to stand trial for the aggravated manslaughter of Graziani Battistelli, 52, and 41-year-old Marco Iampieri.

At an inquest held today at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, the court heard how in the days leading up to his death, Mr Collins was staying with an Italian friend and was subject to regular checks by the police.

The court heard from his brother Alexander and aunt Susanne, who had been visiting the house in Petoria.

Mr Collins had been suffering from a bad cough which caused him to vomit and was waiting with his brother until the early hours for the police to come to the house to give him permission to see a doctor.

He was taking cough medicine for this, as well as anti-depressants and lithium, most of which had been prescribed to him whilst he was in prison for seven weeks before being released.

The inquest took place at the Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones
The inquest took place at the Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones

Alexander Collins said that on the night before his brother's death, the pair had enjoyed a meal and some wine, before retiring to the living room to wait for the police.

"He told me that the police would turn up at 4 or 5am in the morning, they didn't care.

"About nine o' clock (the next morning), I went to the toilet and saw Stephen was still asleep on the sofa. He wasn't moving, he felt cold."

His aunt Susanne said that she was forced to go out into the street to seek help, as a power cut had left them without access to a phone.

She said: "It was so bizarre; we couldn't make a call from the landline. So I ran out in my pyjamas, I was calling out in Italian that we needed help.

"A motorcycle passed by and I said 'I need an ambulance, I think someone's died'."

In a statement read out by the coroner, Stephan's mother Barbara said how during a house visit, her son had shown a doctor the various medications he had been taking, and asked if he would be able to come off of them.

He was told that we would need to be weaned off them slowly once he was back in the UK, which the family expected he would be able to do.

Stephen's father Kenneth added that his son had been a keen kickboxer, and had been competing the week before his car accident, but had taken a downturn due to the collapse of his marriage shortly after the birth of his son.

During his witness statement, Kenneth made it clear that he wanted to make statements regarding his son's treatment by the Italian authorities, but the coroner said he would not hear them as it was "Not in his jurisdiction."

The court also heard from pathologist Dr Nicola Chaston, who had carried out a second post mortem once Mr Collins' body was returned to the UK.

Her report concluded that the alcohol Mr Collins had consumed the night before his death, along with the Lorazepam, and small dosage of methadone in his system contributed to a respiratory failure, which ultimately caused his death.

The coroner asked Dr Chaston if the medication he was on should have been reviewed so as to prevent such an accident happening, she said "Absolutely", but stressed to the family that she was not aware of the systems in place in Italy pertaining to how medication was prescribed.

In his summing up, the coroner expressed his dismay at the difficulty of conducting an inquest where the person's death had occurred out of the UK, saying: "We are not able to secure the attendance of witnesses so we have to rely on the paper evidence.

"We do not know what prescribing regimen should have been used and can't know.

He apologised to the family for not hearing their concerns about Mr Collin's treatment by law enforcement whilst he was in Italy.

The are looking to pursue legal action for this.

He said: "It's not that I have no sympathy, I have sympathy, but I have to work within the remit of what the law permits me to do.

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