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Christmas Eve homeless man Michael McCluskey died of drugs overdose

A homeless man who died in an empty shop doorway on Christmas Eve was a dad, grandad and football fan who had battled drug addiction for more than 10 years.

Michael Andrew McCluskey, 43, was found by a passer-by, tucked up in his sleeping bag near Poundland and the Central Theatre on a cold December morning in Chatham High Street.

He had died from a heroin overdose.

Michael McCluskey died in a shop doorway on Chatham High Street on Christmas Eve
Michael McCluskey died in a shop doorway on Chatham High Street on Christmas Eve

It emerged at an inquest into his death that he had struggled to give up drugs despite intervention from family, friends and organisations.

Chris Morris, assistant coroner for mid Kent and Medway, said Mr McCluskey had taken drugs for many years and almost died from an accidental overdose 10 years previously.

After that scare, he ditched the drugs and was clean for a while but turned to them again for comfort after experiencing “problems” with a close family member, the inquest heard.

Mr Morris said: “His family tried to get him help but he said he enjoyed it. There were a number of attempts by his family to get him to detox.”

A post mortem revealed fatal levels of morphine in Mr McCluskey’s body as well as “elevated levels” of cocaine and amphetamines and some prescription drugs.

Mr Morris said both heroin and cocaine “affect the heart’s ability to function”.

Sgt Lynn Lewis said police were called by ambulance crews at 11.40am but Mr McCluskey was already dead.

They found him clothed and wrapped in a sleeping bag with his head on a pillow, a toothbrush and drug paraphernalia in his possession and needle marks on his arm.

Sgt Lewis said: “There were an awful lot of shoppers about as it was a busy High Street on Christmas Eve.

“I spoke to paramedics and members of the public.

Floral tributes left at the scene of Michael McCluskey's death
Floral tributes left at the scene of Michael McCluskey's death

“One of the major pieces of information we received was that Michael had been there potentially all night, possibly with one or two unknown males who we have not been able to trace.”

She added that many people, including a PCSO, had walked past Mr McCluskey during the morning believing that he was asleep.

Shortly after Mr McCluskey’s death, Neil Charlick, from volunteer group Medway Street Angels, said: “I’d seen him the night before. I bought him McDonald’s and we sat together laughing and joking.

“He was a nice lad and we used to talk all the time as he was a West Ham fan, same as me. We had a connection because of football so we had something to talk about.”

Mr McCluskey’s mum, daughter, sister, mother-in-law and former partner attended the inquest at Archbishop’s Palace, Maidstone.

The medical cause of death was given as heroin toxicity, and Mr Morris, who described the case as “very sad” and believed the overdose was accidental, concluded that Mr McCluskey’s death was drug-related.

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