Man lay dead for days as his bank account was emptied
PUBLISHED: 12:47 17 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:47 17 December 2015
A drug addict lived alongside a man's decomposing body for days before notifying police he was dead.
Officers launched a murder inquiry into the death of Lee Happer after a post-mortem examination revealed “suspicious injuries” on his body in June last year.
Mr Happer, 43, a drug addict, who was also known by his father’s name Buckley, was discovered dead at his flat in Ashanti Mews off Mare Street on Saturday, June 21, but initial tests could not determine how he died.
A subsequent examination revealed injuries to his rib cage and that he had been dead for “a period of weeks” as his body lay in his home amidst dog excrement.
Police discovered his bank account had also been drained after his death.
Two men were arrested but Poplar Coroner’s Court heard police had insufficient evidence to take the case to the Crown Prosecution Service, after one of them, Michael Lothan, gave evidence.
He said Mr Happer, a friend for 30 years who had visited him in prison, had invited him to live in his flat because he was “having a lot of people come around causing him grief”.
He described how the pair had been doing the “normal thing” the day before Lee’s death, buying 12 cans of drink and taking their medication.
“I can’t remember the exact day he died, but all I remember is I went to sleep, and when I woke up he was dead,” he said.
He described how he “freaked out” when he realised Mr Happer was dead, because he “couldn’t believe he actually did it”.
“You didn’t think there was a possibility he might still be alive and you should get help?” asked Coroner Mary Hassell.
“Mr Lothan did you hurt Lee in any way? The reason I ask you is that it is an odd thing not to tell anybody that a person had died.”
He replied: “I was panicking and the fact I didn’t call the police straight away made me panic even more. I had a partner who died in Norwich and I was made to feel like I was responsible when it was just a tragedy.”
Mr Happer’s cousin, who was in court for the inquest, said: “You didn’t let the Old Bill know there was a dead body on that chair, my cousin, he might not have meant a lot to you junkies, but you see he meant a lot to me.
“He is dead with his knees up to his chest in a submissive manner, he had been shot and run over and couldn’t walk properly, he had a new hip replacement, he had trouble with his hip, to bring his knees up in a submissive manner tells me he was getting a hiding.”
A forensic pathology report concluded the rib injuries were unlikely to be caused by third party assault and more likely because of repeated falls.
Coroner Mary Hassell ruled his death was caused by the combined effects of methadone intoxication and osteoporotic rib fractures
She said: “Lee was left in a chair and he was left there to decompose and that’s a horrible, horrible thing but that doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone killed him.”
“I think the predominant cause of Lee’s death is drugs, the only additional factor is the trauma that he must have suffered in his chest, it may well have been a consequence of falls that he suffered while he was intoxicated, it’s possible that somebody pushed him or hurt him but in this instance I can’t say.”