A former public school boy who became one of the world’s top poker players died in a friend’s flat after taking 13 times the lethal dose of cocaine and heroin.
Elliot Blackburne, 32, took the drugs after night out in December 2017 when he returend to George Booth’s flat in Sale, Greater Manchester.
Blackburne’s girlfriend Kirsty Gallagher tried to call him. His inquest heard Mr Booth discovered his friend’s body in the spare room when he went to investigate the ringing mobile phone, before sending a group text message claiming: ‘It’s not good news.’
Elliott Blackburne, pictured, died at George Booth’s flat in Sale, Greater Manchester on December 13, 2017 having taking a fatal dose of cocaine and heroin after a night out
Mr Booth then sent a message to a friend in Hong Kong which said: ‘I can’t believe what had happened to Elliott.’
The inquest heard that Blackburne, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester had 651 micrograms of heroin and cocaine per litre of blood in his system. A level of 50mg can be fatal to a first time user while 200mg will normally kill someone who has built up a tolerance to the durgs.
A police investigation into his death found no evidence of foul play even though Blackburne’s family said the flat had been cleaned up before officers arrived.
Blackburne was described as a ‘caring and compassionate’ son who had attended Hale Preparatory school and the £9,000 a year Cheadle Hulme School before enrolling at university.
His mother Colette Blackburne, 63, told the Stockport inquest: ‘He was the life and soul of the party, no matter how dark things were he’d always bounce back.
‘He started to drink when he earned money and had a very addictive personality. He also had a problem with gambling, which initially he was a whiz at. He had huge successes with gambling at first, he was in the top three at the world poker championship.
‘He got into debt around nine years ago and it continued until recently but to a much lesser degree. I did pay off a substantial amount of debts for it which I would say relieved the pressure.’
Mrs Blackburne said she had a suspicion that her son may have taken drugs in the past but would not ‘associate him’ as someone who would take heroin or cocaine.
She told the inquest that she received a call from her son’s girlfriend on December 13, 2017 who said she received a text message claiming it wasn’t ‘good news’.
In a statement Mr Blackburne’s partner Kirsty Gallagher said: ‘We suspected that George had covered up what had happened. Since Elliott’s death, George has given strange and inconsistent accounts of what happened.
‘I believe George had given Elliott the drugs and had panicked and was going to leave Elliott in the flat. I believe George panicked and left Elliott for a while before he decided what to do, I believe his family had been called early in the day to help clean up the flat and cover up what had happened. I want to get the phone records of George and his family. We just want to know the truth.’
Mr Booth told the inquest: ‘We had a bottle of wine back at the flat. I heard him get up in the middle of the night for a water and then the next day, I woke up late afternoon and heard his phone going. I’d not jumped up because I didn’t know why he wouldn’t want to answer his phone.
‘I saw him on the bed in a funny position and I just knew. I touched him and he was cold as ice. He was clothed. I phoned up the paramedics immediately. They told me to get him on the floor and administer CPR, but he was a strong lad.
‘I was in a state of total shock. I phoned up our friend and phoned my family up, before you know it there was a few people around.’
Mr Booth denied witnessing Blackburne taking any drugs and said he could not explain how foil, which can be used to smoke heroin, had been found under his bed.
He said: ‘I’d had parties before and I don’t know who put it there. I’m a party guy. I’ve used substances in the past but it is irrelevant to what’s happened here.’
Det Sgt Matthew Gregory said: ‘Elliott was in the spare room on the floor but we did not find anything that concerned us on his body. We found a small snap bag, which from experience, controlled drugs are normally supplied in.
‘That was empty other than trace remnants, that was found under the bed of George Booth. It may have been consistent to brown powder which may have been heroin. There was no foil found under the spare bed but there were pieces of foil that had burn marks on them – usually in the burning of heroin.
‘I did not find any evidence of any third party involvement or suspicious circumstances. The bags with some clothing in struck me as being there for some time. I did not get the impression that the house was packed up – the flat being really clean was not particularly the impression I got, there was a bottle of wine on the side in the kitchen.’
Recording a conclusion of a drug-related death coroner Chris Morris said: ‘This is a tragic case with Mr Blackburne being a much-loved son who had many positive attributes. but I am satisfied that he was a user of elicit drugs.
‘Mr Blackburne returned to Mr Booth’s flat in Sale to spent the night there as favour. Mr Booth’s account was that although alcohol was consumed, he neither took himself that night or did he witness Mr Blackburne taking any elicit drugs.
‘I did not find him to be a wholly reliable witness, particularly with regards to whether any drugs were consumed. But there is no evidence to suggest the substances were forced upon Mr Blackburne.’