REGIONAL NEWS: Coroner's warning after teen dies from drinking vodka

A coroner has sounded a warning after a '˜wonderful' teenager died from drinking a whole bottle of vodka at a New Year's Eve party.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 11th January 2018, 3:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th January 2018, 3:15 pm
Jake Wheatcroft
Jake Wheatcroft

Jake Wheatcroft had been celebrating at a friend’s house when he fell asleep on the sofa after consuming a 700ml bottle of Ciroc vodka.

Derby coroners’ court heard his friends drew profanities on his face, whipped him with a tea towel, threw water on his crotch and took pictures of his unconscious body as a ‘joke’ before they realised the seriousness of the situation.

They later became concerned as they could not wake him.

They put him in the recovery position on the floor of the living room before going to sleep.

His lifeless body was found by a group of his friends at around 11am on January 1, 2017. Pathologist Michael Biggs said Jake died of ‘acute ethanol toxicity’ which effectively caused the part of the brain which controls breathing to ‘go to sleep’.

His blood alcohol level was measured at 316ml per 100ml of blood - almost four times over the legal drink drive limit. His family described him as a ‘wonderful, polite, super boy’ who ‘everybody loved’.

In a letter sent to coroner Dr Robert Hunter, parents Carl and Amanda Wheatcroft wrote: “We had so many messages from people saying how kind-hearted and wonderful he was after his death.

“There were rows of boys outside our house in tears. He was a credit to our family and was well liked. “Our lives have been ruined forever. “Life itself will never be the same as it once was. “We just want this inquest to be taken seriously and for no more lies to be told so that we can finally find out the truth for Jake.”

The inquest heard a number of conflicting accounts of what happened from his three friends at the small party.

Two boys said Jake had been drinking from the bottle of vodka on his own all night but fingerprint analysis revealed the teen had not touched the bottle. His body was originally discovered by one of the boys. He told the court that he attempted to wake Jake up by shaking him but he could not be roused.

He told another boy that he could not wake Jake up and then went to his bedroom and played on his Xbox. He later changed his account to say he had checked his pulse and breathing.

The other boy said he found Jake with ‘stiff arms’ and ‘knew immediately that he was dead’ and informed his dad, who did not call 999 but went to Jake’s parents’ house in Glebe Avenue, in Pinxton, to inform them of his death.

Asked by the coroner why he didn’t call the emergency services, he responded: “I just panicked and wanted to get Jake’s dad.” Jake’s parents called the police at 11.48am and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

DC Chris Yapp, from Derbyshire police, said: “The lies have added extra stress to Jake’s parents. His friends said they were fearful of the repercussions if they told the truth.”

Dr Hunter said: “I find it quite bizarre that not one individual in that house used their initiative to phone the police when they found a dead body on their floor. “In the 17 years that I have been a coroner I have never come across a situation like that.” Dr Hunter returned a narrative verdict of the events leading up to Jake’s death.

He said: “Although I can appreciate why they (his friends) concocted a story, I don’t think they realise the consequences of their actions. “The impact on his friends will be with them for a long time.

“It will be with the family for even longer.

“Clearly we are never going to stop teenagers from drinking. “But I want to make one message clear: please, if your friend falls unconscious from drinking or any other reason, call 999. “You won’t be in trouble but you might just save a life.”