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Singer's son killed by drug overdose
Published 16/06/14

THE son of singer Vince Hill died of a drug overdose, a coroner has ruled.

Athol Hill, 42, was found dead at the home of his former partner Liz Green on January 28.

He had spent the night at the house in Badgemore Lane, Henley, after rowing with his partner Julie Bishop when she found him with a needle.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard Mr Hill died from a pulmonary and cerebral oedema.

Toxicology reports showed he had 90 micrograms of opiates per litre of blood, indicating the use of morphine or heroin.

Small amounts of cocaine, alcohol, opiates and benzodiazepines were also found in his urine but these didn’t suggest recent use.

Mr Hill had been suffering from headaches for months and was taking diazepam.

Police called to the scene found needles in Mr Hill’s jacket but there was no evidence he had taken any drugs in the house. Pathologist Dr Eve Fryer said: “Mr Hill was known to have a drug problem but was thought to have kicked it. According to his partner, he had been drinking more alcohol.”

Mr Hill went to Ms Green’s house, where their 15-year-old daughter Niam also lives, after leaving the home he shared with Ms Bishop and their three-year-old son Felix.

Ms Bishop said they had rowed after she found him asleep in the spare bedroom with a needle in his hand, although she wasn’t sure if he had taken any drugs.

She said Mr Hill had been clean of drugs for a year and she was “very upset” when she saw him with the needle. On the night he died, Mr Hill and Ms Green watched television in the living room before Mr Hill fell asleep on the floor. Ms Green put a blanket over him before going to bed.

Grace Donaldson, a mutual friend, visited the house the next morning to speak to Ms Green and noticed Mr Hill on the floor.

Ms Donaldson said she assumed he had spent the night there as he had told her on the phone the previous day that he was “in the dog house”.

She said she tried to wake Mr Hill by saying his name but he didn’t respond. His back felt hard and his hands were cold but she left thinking he was okay.

Ms Donaldson said: “Later in the day I saw the air ambulance going over and thought it could be for Athol.

“I called Liz twice but it went to voicemail so I ran up the road to the house.” In a statement, forensic toxicologist Dr Elizabeth Clarke said the amount of alcohol found in his system indicated that Mr Hill was not under the influence at the time of death.

Similarly, evidence of anti-depressants and cocaine were consistent with historical rather than current use and the diazepam was at a remedial level.

Dr Clarke said: “The 90 micrograms of opiate per litre of blood indicates use of morphine or heroin prior to death.

“His exact history of heroin use is unclear — if he was a regular user he would have a tolerance but infrequent use would result in him losing that tolerance.

“My summary is that in the absence of another pathological explanation, opiate and diazepam could provide a cause of death.” Recording a verdict of death by drug overdose, the coroner Nicholas Graham said: “It’s clear to me that this is a drug-related death and there is no evidence Mr Hill intended to take his own life.”

Mr Hill Snr, who lives in Shiplake but didn’t attend the inquest, said he had expected the verdict.

“At least we know now but we were fully sure that’s what it would be anyway,” he said.

“They took samples which showed the presence of drugs but the examination revealed nothing suspicious at all.

“Athol had been clean for a couple of years at least and when you do that you don’t need very much, especially if you have something else in your system like alcohol or valium.”

Mr Hill added: “Athol had everything to live for and it was a terrible shock when we found out. I’m still hurting now and it’s still very raw.”

Published 16/06/14

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