A Royal Navy sailor who was found dead of a fatal dose of heroin while taking part in an overseas drugs operation was probably administered the substance by a third party, an inquest has ruled.
Charles Warrender, who was serving on HMS Richmond in the Indian Ocean, was found dead in the Seychelles. His was barefoot, with his shoes and socks placed next to him. His body was discovered in a park behind the national library in the island’s capital, Victoria, on 30 May last year, and his money had been stolen. Local police said there was no evidence of foul play, but his inquest heard that Warrender, whose ship was on a mission to disrupt the drug trade, was found with high-grade heroin sprinkled on his chest.
The inquest also revealed that the engineer technician had no history of drug taking and had a phobia of needles. Despite ruling the dose was likely to have been administered by a third party, the coroner for Grimsby and North Lincolnshire, Paul Kelly, did not record a verdict of unlawful killing.
Kelly said Warrender would have been aware that his Royal Navy career would be in jeopardy if he tested positive for drugs. The coroner said he relied on the evidence of a renowned forensic pathologist, Dr Nathaniel Cary, and that “he could not exclude the possibility the fatal dose was administered by a third party."
“There is a possibility a theft was a reason for his death,” he said.
After the hearing, the serviceman’s mother, Kate Warrender, said she was convinced the former grammar school pupil had been murdered. She said: “We are disappointed with the conclusion. We expected a conclusion of unlawful killing. We believe that he was murdered.” Warrender had been on a night off as part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations with the rest of the 240 crew, but he breached military rules and went off in a taxi on his own. Experts suspected his body had been dumped in the park sometime between midnight and 6am, when it was spotted by a police officer.
Ministry of Defence investigators found that his bank card had been used three times at ATMs on the island, once before the group went out and twice after he went off on his own. Cary said he could find no marks to show evidence of heroin having been injected and none to show duress or dragging. He said it was likely Warrender had been dumped from a vehicle. The expert said the traces of white powder on his body suggested high-grade heroin “Alcohol in combination with morphine more than adequately accounts for the cause of death,” he said.
“Death was more likely to have occurred nearer to midnight than 6am, and we have a missing number of hours.”
Regulating petty officer Darren Mack said more than 25 hours of CCTV from the island had been examined, but there was no trace of Warrender after he went off in the taxi. He did, however, have witness statements from two people who had seen him. Sheila Esparon said she had seen him with two men and two women. Didier Dorizo told investigators he had seen him with three men and three women, one man brandishing an iron bar. Recording a narrative verdict, Kelly ruled: “There was no objective evidence of illicit drug use by the deceased. The overdose was likely administered by a third party.”
Warrender had been in a bar and accompanied his crew mate Junaid Asif back to the ship in a taxi. He then decided to go back to the bar but never arrived. Kate Warrender said: “He was obviously killed somewhere and then dumped. If he had wanted to do drugs and go to a club then he would have been safe because he would have been with other people.
“But he didn’t die because of drugs. He died because he was in the Royal Navy.” She described her son as a “wonderful, kind and caring person” with a lovely personality. Paying tribute after the inquest she said: “Charlie was a happy and optimistic person, full of joie de vivre. He was always smiling and had a beautiful, huge smile. He had a wonderful, often irreverent, sense of humour. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, too.” She also said she had researched six deaths on the Seychelles islands over a 17-month period, including the death of her son among other servicemen who died while visiting the islands. She said she felt there “remained a lot of unanswered questions” about her son’s death.
Warrender studied at King Edward VI grammar school in Louth. He left school to study at Franklin College and later at the Humberside Engineering Training Association.
Following the hearing, a Royal Navy spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts remain with ET Warrender’s family and friends at this sad time. He will be greatly missed by his Royal Navy colleagues from HMS Richmond and his wider navy colleagues.” The crew had been deployed to the area as part of Operation Kipion to protect Britain’s international interests and to disrupt the drug trade and the routes used by terrorists.
All military personnel are told to abide by “shark watch,” to stay with fellow servicemen and not go out alone.
The Guardian/June 15, 2016
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