Mystery still surrounds backpacker’s death

Jake O'Grady.
Jake O'Grady.

A coroner has ruled the reason a 26-year-old backpacker died may never be known.

Jake O’Grady, a bar supervisor from Morecambe, died on New Year’s Day 2014, after celebrating with two friends in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Mr O’Grady, a former Preston College student from West End Road, had set off with the two women on November 20, 2013, and had been to Thailand and Cambodia before arriving in Vietnam on December 19.

The women left Mr O’Grady in the Lighthouse Bar at 3.30am on January 1, but Katie Benefer later sent a series of text messages to him, that were never answered.

Police then contacted Katie to say that Mr O’Grady was dead, and she was asked to identify him in his hotel room.

Coroner Simon Jones said he was laid out on the bed wearing his boxer shorts, with no signs of injury or vomit.

Katie had remarked that he “looked peaceful”.

A post mortem carried out in Vietnam concluded Mr O’Grady’s death was acute respiratory failure due to alcohol abuse, but also remarked he had blood contusions around multiple organs and on the left side of his forehead, consistent with “violent contact with a hard object”.

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armer carried out a second autopsy in England, and agreed that there were no signs of violence, no natural diseases, or signs of drug use, but said that toxicology tests were unable to confirm how he died.

She said an alcohol level of 212mg in 100ml of blood – two and a half times over the UK drink-drive limit – would cause a “moderate degree of intoxication, but was not in the fatal range, which is usually 400mg per 100ml of blood.”

She also raised doubt about the investigation into organs in the first autopsy.

Mr Jones reached an open conclusion.

He said: “I prefer the conclusion of Dr Armer in view of her accreditation as a Home Office pathologist and note her comments about the post mortem in Vietnam.

“I am therefore satisfied that the cause of death is unascertained, given the comparatively low level of alcohol which would not have lead to this man’s death.”