DEATH is often a taboo subject, but for Dr James Adeley they’re an everyday occurrence – as he deals with 4,000 fatalities a year.
As a senior coroner for Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, his job is to investigate the mysterious reasons some people pass away.
Dr Adeley has worked on a number of unusual cases – including a 52-year-old woman who died after accidentally strangling herself when her pyjama top got caught in the oven.
Speaking last year at the inquest into the death of barmaid Jackie Michelle Cottrill, 52, he told how he had “never come across such an unusual case” in his 20 years as a coroner.
Dr Adeley and his team, who star in new ground-breaking Canal 5 documentary Cause of Death, investigate certain deaths which are deemed to be unnatural, violent, or where the cause is unknown.
This includes ordering a post-mortem, getting witness statements and medical records, or holding an inquest.
Speaking to the Sun, ele disse: “After the American TV series Quincy everybody in this country thinks that the coroner is actually a pathologist who undertakes the examinations of the deceased.
“We’re not, we’re a type of judge.
“We have our own investigative officers who will investigate all the deaths.”
One particular case featured in the show involves a cause of death that is a first for Dr Adeley.
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Killed by ‘happiness’
Serotonin syndrome occurs when the body has too much of a chemical serotonin – often dubbed the ‘happy hormone’.
This is usually due to a combination of medications – in this case a mix of antidepressants and amphetamines.
Dr Adeley said: “I’ve been doing this job for 18 anos agora. I’ve never come across serotonin syndrome before. This is a first.
“It’s the very unusual reaction between a prescribed drug and a social drug.
“The body heats up until the brain gets so hot that it doesn’t function and you collapse and die.”
Body in the bath
Another mystery case involves the death of a man found in a bath full of water, with the tap still running.
O 999 call was made last December by a concerned neighbour of Andrew Milnes, 48, who lived alone in Skelmersdale, Lancs.
Speaking in the documentary, DS Sean Cloherty from Lancashire Police said: “I looked at the incident report as it came in and just felt that it might be suspicious given the circumstances.
“He was lying partially submerged in the bath with his head under the water and his right leg over the side of the bath.
“There was an electric shower in the premises and the shower head had been pulled off and was in the bath with him.”
Some of the deaths in this series were completely unclear as to what had happened at the beginning. It only became clearer as the information came in. So it is a detective story
Dr James Adeley
DS Cloherty added that the cause of death could be drowning or an electric shock – as the electrics in the house were in a pretty poor condition.
It also emerged that the victim had been involved in a hit and run accident with a lorry five months earlier. If these injuries caused his death, it could lead to a prosecution.
Deciding a full investigation was necessary, Dr Adeley ordered a Home Office postmortem examination.
It revealed he had a rare, unknown heart condition which caused him to collapse, fall into the bath and drown – in what Dr Adeley described during the inquest as a “very unusual and very tragic set of circumstances”.
Earlier this year Dr Adeley called for stricter controls of the sale of a legal food preparation chemical after a woman committed suicide.
Victoria Lacey, 21, died in June 2020 after taking a fatal dose of the substance, which is legally available for its intended purpose but fatal when consumed directly due to its effect on the blood.
Dr Adeley sent a report to the Home Office outlining the method of suicide is “rapidly increasing”, warning that more deaths may occur if action is not taken.
Dr Adeley worked as an ear, nose and throat surgeon before leaving medicine in 1993 to requalify as a lawyer, before becoming a coroner nearly two decades ago.
He presided over the inquests into the deaths of two of the victims of the Morecambe Bay Cockling disaster, quando 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned while working off the Lancashire coast in February 2004.
Ele disse: “It’s the best job in the world. It is helping people at a terrible time in their lives get through a process as easily as possible while providing them with an explanation as to how their loved one came by their death.
It’s the best job in the world. It is helping people at a terrible time in their lives get through a process as easily as possible while providing them with an explanation as to how their loved one came by their death
Dr James Adeley
“That is a very fulfilling job and it’s a privilege to be a coroner.”
The job requires a morbid sense of curiosity as trying to find out why someone died can be “a detective story”.
Dr Adeley said: “A lot of your job really is to find out the truth and some things can be quite a mystery.
“You start at the beginning with almost no information and you have a puzzle to solve. We have the advantages of CT scanning, pathologists, toxicology, the police, the coroner’s officers who will gather witness statements, and you piece together this jigsaw.
“Some of the deaths in this series were completely unclear as to what had happened at the beginning. It only became clearer as the information came in. So it is a detective story.”
Dr Adeley said all the deaths featured in the series are “unusual in their own way”, adicionando: “Each one is a tragedy for the family involved.”
Despite a Coroner’s best efforts, in some cases the mystery of someone’s death can never be solved.
Eu obviamente pensei sobre isso, mas eu tinha um trabalho a fazer.”
Dr Adeley said: “There are some deaths that it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into it, you just will not always understand how that person met their end.”
Cause of Death airs on Monday 19th October at 9pm on Channel 5.