POLICE suspect thieves stole from a much-loved Irish publican as he lay dying on the street.
An inquest heard this week how Kilkenny man Mick Doheny, landlord at Camden’s World’s End pub, was found unconscious with a “significant head injury” last November.
The inquest was told that three people were held on suspicion of theft as a result of personal items taken from Mr Doheny at the time.
St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard how the 49-year-old visited his regular, The Golden Lion, after which it is suspected he suffered a fall, which may have caused his death.
A toxicology report revealed that Mr Doheny’s blood-alcohol level was almost six times the drink-drive limit at the time of his death.
His son Seb travelled from Ireland to London to contest the accidental death verdict, arguing that “too much weight” was being placed on his father’s drinking.
The inquest heard that on the night of his death Mr Doheny had been drinking whiskey and Guinness on a night out with friends at various Irish pubs in the area.
After visiting the Sheephaven Bay pub, owned by Donegal man Pat Logue, the father-of-three asked for a final nightcap at his regular, The Golden Lion in Royal College Street, at midnight and left to go home.
Less than four hours later passers-by found him on his back opposite the pub, with his “head lying in the gutter” surrounded by scattered belongings.
The inquest heard that three people were held on suspicion of theft as a result of personal items taken from Mr Doheny.
Detective Sergeant Will Cole said police at the scene had “concerns that someone had tried to take property from him”.
A statement from Mr Doheny’s friend, Shane Gavin, which was read out to the court, said the pub landlord, who had moved to England from Westport, in Co. Mayo, in the 1990s, had been “drinking throughout the day”.
“It was his usual drinking pattern, he was a seasoned drinker,” Mr Gavin said. “His working life was surrounded by alcohol.”
By the time Mr Gavin left the bar at around midnight, he saw Mr Doheny asking for “another drink for the road” at the Golden Lion, run by Galway woman Mary Murphy.
Witness Cosmos Scullion said in a statement that he saw Mr Doheny’s body on the ground while driving at around 4am down Pratt Street and stopped to check he was okay before ringing the emergency services.
“As I got closer I noticed that the man was lying on his back in what I can only describe as a starfish position,” he said.
Ambulance staff later pronounced Mr Doheny dead at the scene.
Pathologist Dr Simon Poole, who examined the body, found a “significant head injury” with no defensive wounds, which he said suggested Mr Doheny had had an “unprotected fall” backwards, off the pavement into the road, and hit his head.
He added that the injury, although severe, was “not necessarily fatal in itself [but it] could be associated with loss of consciousness or even death if the patient was not in the recovery position”.
A toxicology report found a blood alcohol concentration of 460mg per 100ml – almost six times the drink-drive limit – a level that can result in severe breathing difficulties, coma and death.
Dr Poole gave the cause of death as acute toxic effects of alcohol with blunt force traumatic brain injury.
Mr Doheny’s son Seb, 25, who flew in from Ireland for the inquest, contested the cause, arguing that “too much weight” was being placed on his father’s drinking.
He asked the coroner: “If he had made it home to bed, as he usually did, would he have woken up in the morning or would the level of alcohol separate to the fall have caused him to have died? It is for those reasons that I’m seeking to have the cause of death amended.”
Dr Brittain said: “It may be comforting for you to have the wording different. Even though it does not change anything legally or the conclusion of the pathologist. Everything that we have heard shows that your father was very popular and his life revolved around the pubs in Camden.
“He clearly deliberately had a lot to drink that evening. It was part of his normal social pattern. It seems he left the pub and has had a fall and has had a head injury. It is more likely than not that it was an accidental death.”
In reference to the thefts from Mr Doheny’s body, he said: “I’m satisfied that the very unfortunate events surrounding how your father’s body was found ultimately does not have an impact on how he died.
“It is comforting to know that the people who undertook that act will be facing consequences. It is a real loss for Camden and the family as a whole.”
Mr Doheny moved to north London 16 years ago as general manager of The World’s End, on Camden High Street, helping to transform it into one of the area’s most popular venues.
Mr Doheny joined the Camden Inner London Licensing Association (CILLA) and immersed himself in licensing battles on behalf of beleaguered pubs. Last year he was working on a closure threat for the Golden Lion.
During his 10 years as CILLA’s chairman, he helped to raise significant amounts of money for several local charities, including the Aisling Return to Ireland Project.
Mr Doheny was also a founding member of Camden Town Unlimited, which works to improve the area for visitors and tourists.