Man died in St Leonards three days after release from prison

A man collapsed and died in a St Leonards street after overdosing on cocaine just three days after being released from prison, an inquest has heard.

Dad-of-one Tony Shearer, 31, died in Kenilworth Road on July 18, 2019.

An inquest into his death, delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was held in Hastings today (Tuesday, November 10) and heard Mr Shearer had a pre-existing heart condition – atherosclerosis – which restricts blood flow due to a build of cholesterol.

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After his death, his girlfriend Melissa Skinner described him as a ‘big character’ who ‘always knew how to put a smile on my face’.

Tony Shearer SUS-190731-163545001

Steven Joy, a resident of Kenilworth Road, said he was doing some work on the side of his house on July 18 when Mr Shearer caught his attention as he walked past his property.

The 31-year-old asked Mr Joy to call police and reported that there were people who were trying to kill him.

Mr Joy told the court: “I went inside the house to get the phone, called police and put the phone on speaker so he could hear it. That’s when he started to go a bit funny.”

The court heard Mr Shearer gripped both arms around a lamppost and his body started shaking before he fell to the ground and hit his head.

Tony Shearer with Melissa Skinner

Despite the efforts of Mr Joy and paramedics, Mr Shearer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police sergeant Mendis Gunasekera told the court a large quantity of ‘high quality cocaine’ was found at Mr Shearer’s flat and said there was no evidence of third party involvement in his taking of the drugs.

A toxicology report found a potentially fatal quantity of cocaine in Mr Shearer’s system at the time of his death.

PS Gunasekera said it was common for people who were used to taking large quantities of drugs to lose some of their tolerance while in prison.

Senior coroner for East Sussex Alan Craze told the court it was not possible to determine whether Mr Shearer’s heart condition contributed to his death.

In returning a verdict of dependance on drugs, Mr Craze said he had no doubt Mr Shearer was an addict.

In a statement, Karen Hughes, a substance misuse nurse at HMP Ford, said Mr Shearer had identified his problems with drugs and alcohol, which he told her made him angry, and was ‘determined’ to fight his addiction.

The court was told Mr Shearer was living at a flat in Stockleigh Road, St Leonards, following his release from HMP Ford on July 15.

Melissa, who had been with Mr Shearer for three and a half years and is the mother to his daughter, described him as a ‘hard grafter’ who was fit and active, adding: “He was such a good person.

“He was deeply religious and always prayed and believed in God. He had plans to have (our daughter) christened.

“Despite living in Hastings he still kept in regular contact with me and his mum.”

Melissa said Tony’s death ‘left a hole in so many lives’, including his five siblings – two brothers and three sisters – who live in Kent and London.