A former Exeter chef and builder who had expressed a desire to live following an intentional overdose tragically died just two days later after unknowingly taking a fatal combination of drugs. Luke Coles was found unresponsive on a friend's sofa on October 9, 2021, following a night out, an inquest heard.
The 29-year-old had been under the watchful eye of friends who carried out CPR as soon as they realised he had stopped breathing but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. In a statement, his mum Michelle Kennedy described him as 'a very emotional boy who wore his heart on his sleeve'.
The inquest held at Exeter's Coroner's Court in County Hall yesterday, January 30, heard that the evening before Luke's death he had been to friends' houses where he had consumed alcohol, coke and cannabis. He was described as having been a bit 'quiet' but otherwise fine.
Read more: Exeter murder: Man charged with murder of Stephen Cook
While some friends remained in town, he went back to his best friend's house in Exeter city centre with two others to listen to music and play cards. One of the friends told in a statement how they suspected he had gone into the bathroom and taken more drugs after he became unsteady on his feet and woozy.
He was laid on the sofa to rest and the friends later left. When Luke's best friend, joined by some other friends, arrived back at the house around 3am, he was described as snoring and could not be woken up.
They put him in the recovery position around 7am after becoming concerned for his welfare and released he was not breathing properly. They carried out CPR until paramedics arrived. A post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of his death was the combined toxic effects of morphine and benzodiazepine.
Luke, who lived with his mum and her partner in Broadclyst, was described as having had a long history of depression and anxiety.
What is happening where you live? Find out by adding your postcode or visit InYourArea here
The inquest heard he called for an ambulance on October 7, 2021, after taking an intentional overdose. While in hospital, a mental health assessment was carried out and a referral was made to the community mental health team.
A senior mental health practitioner told the inquest: "He was rated as a moderate risk to himself due to substances he was using which increased the risk of unintentional death."
His mum described him as having been a bubbly and bouncy child who was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD when he was around 18 years old. He went on to do different jobs including working as a chef and builder, and was previously employed by BT and Devon Doctors in its NHS 111 service.
At the beginning of lockdown at the end of March 2020, he lost his job working on a building site and stayed with family in Derbyshire. The following month he crashed his bike while riding through a forest and suffered a head injury. It caused him to lose his sense of smell and taste, meaning that he would be unable to work again as a chef. His mum, who he moved back in with, said: "I think this is when the depression set in."
Shatter the Silence
The DevonLive Shatter the Silence campaign aims to encourage anyone struggling to reach out and talk - to either a friend, relative, charity or a professional. Our campaign content will highlight just how important talking is and the difference it can make.
Ultimately, we want to reduce the number of people who die by suicide in Devon. We will highlight where to get help and show how talking has helped people come through difficult times in their lives. We will speak to families who have lost loved ones to look at the lasting impact of suicide and attempt to dismiss the inaccurate belief many people who are struggling manifest that they are a burden on the ones they love. We will look at the devastation caused to those left behind in the hope that even one reader might change their mind if they have considered taking their own life.
We will speak to people who have survived a suicide attempt and have accessed counselling or other mental health services to show that things can get better. We will speak to Samaritans volunteers about their vital work in Devon and how they are on hand 24-7 to listen. And we will offer guidance on what to say to someone who is struggling so people feel more confident to have that conversation.
Do you have a relevant story to share? Email email@example.com.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
SAMARITANS offers support in a range of ways, including a self-help app, email support or by calling 116 123 for free 24 hours a day
NHS Offers advice on how to access mental health support
TALKWORKS is a free-to-access NHS service offering a variety of treatment and support for adults (aged 18+) living in Devon (excluding Plymouth)
CALM offer a free, confidential helpline 0800 58 58 58 and webchat, 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life's problems
HUB OF HOPE is a mental health support database that can signpost you to local support services
ANDY'S MAN CLUB offers men a chance to talk with like-minded people. They have clubs in Devon as well as nationally
KOOTH & QWELL provides free, safe and anonymous online mental wellbeing support, including moderated peer support forums and text-based counselling, to all residents living in Devon (aged 11+)
PETE'S DRAGONS provide free-to-access support to all residents living in Devon who may have been bereaved by suicide at any point in their lives
Recalling the last moments she spent with him, she told how before giving him a lift for his night out he had given her a hug and due to his recent overdose attempt he said, 'I really don’t want to die'.
She said: "There was no indication when I dropped him off on the Friday that he was down or intended to take his own life, especially after the hug and comment in the kitchen."
His best friend, whose house he had been staying at before his death, told in a statement how Luke would take coke recreationally but that it had developed into a 'problem' the past year and because of the issues he had in his life he started self-medicating. Describing Luke's mood before he died, the friend recalled that although he could tell he was sad there was no indication that he was suicidal.
He said: "He was being social and talking to people. He was super friendly and jolly and everyone loved him so much." He added: "I'm heartbroken by his death. We were very close."
Another friend who had been with him that night described him as a 'really nice guy' and said that evening he had warned him about the dangers of drugs following the deaths of other friends. He said: "I did not want the same thing happening to him."
Following Luke's death, a police investigation was conducted. Ruling out suicide, Det Sgt John Friskey said: "It was an accident as a result of the substances he had taken that night."
Recording a conclusion of a drug-related death, area coroner Alison Longhorn said: "He took drugs recreationally, as he did many times before, and sadly miscalculated the accumulative effect it had on him with tragic consequences."
She added: "It is apparent to me he was a well-loved family member and friend."
You can stay up-to-date on the top news near you with DevonLive's FREE newsletters – find out more about our range of daily and weekly bulletins and sign up here or enter your email address at the top of the page.
Council starts enforcement of three-weekly bin collection scheme
Exeter attack leaves man with life-changing injuries, three arrested
Paignton Zoo's adorable orang utan family reunited after three months apart
Car that ploughed into pedestrians in Barnstaple seized but occupants still on the run
Devon's failing children's services still has 'serious issues'