Cliff fall death was an accident, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 09:24 28 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:24 28 January 2016

County Hall in Exeter.

County Hall in Exeter.


A sofa-surfing, homeless heroin user died from multiple injuries after accidentally falling from cliffs at Exmouth, an inquest has heard.

The body of Christopher Moffat, aged 43, a single man of no fixed abode, was discovered face down between two rocks at the bottom of cliffs at Rodney Bay beach, Exmouth, on July 18 last year.

A pathology examination found unemployed Mr Moffat, who was born in Exeter, had died from multiple injuries from a fall.

Exeter and Greater Devon Coroner, Dr Elizabeth Earland, ruled out suicide and concluded Mr Moffat’s death had been accidental.

A pathology report found levels of alcohol in Mr Moffat’s blood that were almost twice the legal drink-drive limit.

His doctor said Mr Moffat battled alcoholism and was also an intravenous drug user.

Mr Moffat’s sister said: “He had a history of problems fuelled by his drug habit. There was no evidence he had any suicidal intent.”

A pathology examination of Mr Moffat also found methadone in his blood, plus levels of metabolic morphine, consistent with street heroin.

Dr Earland said a regular heroin user was able to bear much higher concentrates of the drug, adding that the deceased developed a tolerance because of prolonged use.

She said the effects of the heroin caused euphoria and drowsiness, then agitation and depression upon come-down.

A toxicology report found Mr Moffat had used heroin, diazepam and morphine before he died.

Detective Constable Damien Randall, called to the scene of death, found a bent fence post on the cliff-top between Orcombe Point and Sandy Bay, which was above a clearing where Mr Moffat ‘appeared to have fallen’. Police said there was a ‘strong wind blowing’. DC Randall found a blue tobacco pouch at the spot.

The inquest heard how a friend had put Mr Moffat up on his sofa and last saw him at 9pm the day before his body was found. He described Mr Moffat as being ‘groggy’.

In reaching her conclusion, Dr Earland said: “Whilst he had levels of alcohol and diazepam in his blood, he has died from the effect of the fall, which is multiple injuries.

“I am satisfied on the balance of probability that his death was an accident and so I’m saying that the proper conclusion is accidental death.”

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