SOUTH WALES - A 'Bad Santa' died in a drugs and booze bender after being kicked out of his DIY bus shelter grotto, an inquest heard.
Former jockey Gary Cooper, 52 – who called himself a “Christmas kinda guy” – had moved to Penarth, South Wales to set up the makeshift den in the wooden shelter for two successive years. Homeless Gary lived in the shelter for six weeks and dressed up in a Santa outfit to greet passengers, but some said he seemed drunk as they waited for their morning bus.
His grotto made him famous in the town but council workmen he branded “Scrooges” ripped down his decorations after residents complained. He also got an Asbo banning him from Penarth. Girlfriend Maria Goodwin, 53, found him unconscious with a fatal level of heroin substitute methadone in his system and three times the drink-drive limit of alcohol.
Police do not know how he got hold of the prescription medication as he did not have a known drug problem. Ms Goodwin told the hearing: “I tried to wake him by pulling on his ears and slapping him but he wouldn’t respond.”
He was treated for cardiac arrest at the University Hospital of Wales but doctors were unable to save him. Cardiff coroner Andrew Barkley recorded a verdict of drug-related death. He had been made homeless but was staying with his girlfriend at the time of his death.
Gary was known to the police and health authority as a heavy drinker. He complained the local authority was playing the part of Scrooge when officials ordered him out after spending £30 on the decorations from his benefits.
He added, “I’m disappointed the council are being crackers.”
The Mirror/ September 11, 2014
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