Appleby man “lay dead for a week”

Date: Friday 17th August 2007

A MAN who died from an overdose had between 10 and 20 times the normal level of a prescribed drug in his blood.

Peter Grant Scriven, aged 63, of Rivington Park, Appleby, was found dead on Friday, 2nd March, but is thought to have died as much as a week earlier.

The body of Mr. Scriven, a sales engineer, was discovered when police broke into his house after his employer alerted them, an inquest at Penrith Magistrates’ Court heard on Tuesday.

South and East Cumbria coroner Ian Smith said post mortem results had shown that Mr. Scriven died from an overdose of Dothiepin, a prescribed antidepressant. A secondary cause of death was liver failure.

The normal level of Dothiepin in blood is 75mg, but laboratory tests showed Mr. Scriven had up to 20 times the expected concentration.

Speaking at the inquest, Mr. Scriven’s son, Jeremy, said that his father was originally from Stratford-upon-Avon. Having gone through a difficult divorce some years previously he was living alone at the time of his death.

Jeremy Scriven added that he was estranged from his father due to separate circumstances but knew of his situation because his brother had been in contact with their father.

PC David Ward told the inquest that on Friday, 2nd March, Mr. Scriven’s employer had alerted the police in view of his absence from work. Officers smashed a window at the rear of the house to gain entry, and PC Ward found Mr. Scriven lying face down in the corner of the front living room. The curtains of the room had been drawn and the house was secure.

Mr. Scriven’s body was checked for unnatural marks but nothing was found and it was thought he died from natural causes. However, it was clear the body had been there for some time, and letters dated 22nd February and a newspaper dated 24th February by the door suggested he had been dead for around a week.

CRITICISED

PC Ward said that doctors had refused to attend the property to confirm the death, something which was criticised by Mr. Scriven’s family. This was said to be an ongoing matter of which the coroner was aware.

Following the results of toxicology tests, police officers searched Mr. Scriven’s home. A number of letters were found which gave the impression he was upset about the break-up of his marriage and the estrangement with his son. Mr. Scriven had also marked a newspaper advertisement in relation to contacting other people.

Coroner Mr. Smith said it had been assumed by the police and Mr. Scriven’s family that he had died from natural causes, such as a heart attack or heart failure, and it had come as a surprise when proven otherwise.

The level of Dothiepin in his body was significant because, although it had been prescribed two to three years earlier, he was not taking the drug any more on a regular basis.

Mr. Smith said that Mr. Scriven appeared to be very good at his job but the break-up of his marriage had hit him very badly. “It is my view Mr. Scriven looked for a way out, initially in terms of trying to make relationships with other people, which he must have found difficult, and ultimately looked for a way out in the way there is no reply at all,” added Mr. Smith.

He recorded a verdict that Mr. Scriven had taken his own life. Mr. Smith said he had taken a massive overdose of the tablets deliberately with the intention of not surviving. Although people sometimes took overdoses as a cry for help in presuming they would be discovered, Mr. Scriven knew nobody would find him in time.

Mr. Smith told the family not to blame themselves because it had been Mr. Scriven’s sole decision. He added that he considered people who took their own lives to be “inconsiderate to the people outside”, but they did so having become inward looking.