Homeless man died outside shelter after starving during storm, inquest told

A homeless man died near a night shelter after sleeping in rain and freezing temperatures during Storm

Jean Louis Du Plessis, also known as Joseph Brian O’Malley, was found unresponsive near a car park in the St Paul’s area of Bristol after strong winds battered the city.

The 41-year-old, who had been homeless for a few years, was sleeping rough over the New Year, the Bristol Post reports .

During an inquest on Thursday, May 3, Avon Coroner’s Court heard Mr Du Plessis was found in a “sleeping position” during a spell of “inclement weather”.

Forecasts showed temperatures dropped to below freezing as Storm Eleanor hit the South West.

A passerby, Michael Higgins, had spotted Mr Du Plessis alone near the Julian Trust night shelter in Little Bishop Street.

“I looked in the car park towards the rear door and I saw a body. There was no one else there,” Mr Higgins said in a statement to court.

He did not have a mobile phone, and ran to a nearby phone box to ring for an ambulance before walking to Bridewell Police Station to report the incident.

The court heard there had been no external injuries and there were no fluids or blood at the scene, but Mr Du Plessis had suffered from “prolonged starvation”.

He was found with his rucksack and sleeping bag.

When emergency services got to him him, he was drenched in the rain, with his clothes and other possessions soaked with water.

The post-mortem report, read out in court, described how Mr Du Plessis had slept in the storm conditions and low temperatures.

An examination by pathologist Dr Poyiatzis found no suggestion of foul play, and Mr Du Plessis suffered no physical injuries, but had high levels of alcohol in his blood, with no drugs.

Further investigation found the homeless man had signs of “prolonged starvation”. He is the eighth known rough sleeper to have died in the Bristol area in the past 12 months.

His girlfriend told the court in her statement the 41-year-old had suffered from alcohol and drug abuse in the past, but had stopped taking heroin.

In his narrative conclusion, assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said he accepted Mr Du Plessis had chronic alcohol misuse and he died of alcohol ketoacidosis.

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